Friday, November 28, 2008

This is Why I Don't Do Black Friday Shopping

When you kill the person opening the door to the store, you have a problem.

Turkey Time

Yeah, I haven't blogged in a while. This week, I have been back home, rather than on the road in some exotic locale. I have done a fair amount of sleeping, going to the gym, playing games, and just relaxing. The last three days I have spent a good chunk of the day at my day at my parents' place ~20 miles away from my house, in Arnold, MO. There has been a lot of food, trips to the Arch, talking with family, and board games. I even won one of the games, thanks to my older brother being nice to me for no apparent reason. Thanks, Christopher! All in all, a good time. And now it's time to hunker down and survive the materialistic insanity that is the Holiday Season.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Quote of the Day

"This is driving in its most natural form. You feel every bump, squeak and jolt, and one can enjoy the sweet smell of gasoline and exhaust fumes. No car can replace it."
Momcilo Spajic, proud Serbian Yugo owner.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Yesterday was my fifth anniversary with PricewaterhouseCoopers. Since I am working in Reno again this week, you can rest assured that my colleague, Ali, and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at the fanciest steak house we could find.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

December is the Month for Fun in the Sun

Ladies and gentlemen, it is official; I am going to be working in Puerto Rico from Thanksgiving to Christmas, and maybe into January, if the work takes that long. And the client has requested that I stay in Puerto Rico for at least one weekend, rather than flying home every weekend. My life is so hard sometimes. Because, you know, I was going to do that, anyway. Wouldn't you?

This qualifies as one of those times when I really like my job.

And Great Was the Fall of the House of Cards

So you say you would like to know how Wall Street could all come to naught so quickly? Read on, friends.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

In the Desert

Well, not literally. This week I find myself in Reno, NV. It is an interesting town, being heavily dependent on casino and tourism revenue. In fact, I am staying at a casino this week, the Grand Sierra, because my company has a nice negotiated rate on rooms there. I've also noticed that food prices seem to be quite reasonable. I guess that is because it is like Vegas, and they expect to make money off of you at the tables and the slot machines, rather than on the standard services.

One interesting thing was flying into the airport. It is not a very big airport, and it looks pretty old. However, on the inside, the terminals are villed with slot machines, video poker machines, and other machines like that. That was different. I do have a nice view from my room, though. I don't know what mountains they are, but I get to look at mountains in the morning, which is pretty sweet.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Dungeoneer: Realm of the Ice Witch

This entry on my journey through my game collection brings us to one of my Dungeoneer games. The Dungeoneer series consists of 8 different sets at the moment, each one being a combination of board game and card game. Some of the cards are used to create the playing board, while other cards represent various hazards that can afflict the player characters, even more cards are items and magic spells that can help the player characters, and then there are cards the represent the individual characters.

Anyone familiar with role-playing games might start to recognize some of what is going on here. Yes, Dungeoneer is a dungeon crawl game, loosely based on the general concepts of games like Dungeons & Dragons. However, rather than each player actually creating a character and acting them out, you draw a player from the character deck and then use that character's listed abilities to not get killed as you try to complete three different quests.

The genius in this game is the way that you play your cards. Each player will have both cards that can help characters (special items, spells, boons, allies, etc.), as well as monsters, traps, and hazards to hinder other players. As characters move around the board, they collect Peril and Glory points. You spend your Glory points to play cards that help you, but you play another character's Peril points to play cards that hinder him. Of course, you have to move around the board to complete your quests, which always require you to go to at least one specific location, if not two. With just two players, you don't have to worry about rationing your peril cards, but with more players, you have to decide how you will play your cards: focus on just one player, or try to focus on whoever has completed more quests, or some other strategy. It can get tense.

The one thing about the game that just doesn't seem to work so good is the experience system. Every character starts the game at 1st level, with low ability scores. As you complete quests, you go up levels (usually), which improves your ability scores. Thus, as you complete quests, it becomes easier to complete more quests. Because of this, the first person to complete a quest has an advantage that can be difficult to overcome for the other players. There are some optional rules that you can download from the Atlas Games website that provide some ways to mitigate this, but it is still a game balance problem.

The specific set that I played this time was Realm of the Ice Witch, which focuses on adventure in an arctic setting. It has some special rules that don't appear in other sets, specifically the fact that the Ice Witch is covering the world in ice. Each turn you roll a die. On a 4 or higher you place an ice token on a space of the player's choice. This means that certain hazards and enemies become stronger on that space, so this adds to the strategy of the game. I actually played it solitaire, using the rules from the optional rules sheet I mentioned in the preceding paragraph. This requires some different set-up, because there is no opponent to play monsters and hazards on you. You might think that this would make the solitaire game easy, but in reality solitaire games usually consist of having terrible monsters chase your character around the board until he/she dies. Seriously, it can get pretty brutal. In the specific game I just played, my character was beat on by a yeti, a pair of dragons, a pair of evil spirits, and then she was killed in an avalanche. She did succeed in killing a rat, but it was pretty ignominous. There is another optional rule, where you "stack" the encounter deck with easier stuff on top, and then harder stuff on the bottom, which I think I will try next time.

In addition, you can combine different sets together to make a bigger game. For example, I could combine the Realm of the Ice Witch set with the Vault of the Fiends set. This means that the Vault is set within the Ice Witch's realm, and you can move between the two areas through specific entry points. I've played that way before, and it works pretty well, definitely changing some of the play strategies.

Bottom line, this is a fun game that doesn't cost very much money and doesn't take too much time to play. Other games, like Runebound or Warhammer Quest, might do the theme of swords-and-sorcery fantasy adventure better, but when you travel a lot like I do, having a small package to take with you can be quite handy. You do have to add some of your own components though, like dice and play tokens. Still, everyone's got six-sided dice and pennies hanging around, so it's nothing that should trouble you.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Trimming the Hedges

Being a bit of a finance geek, I got a LOT of enjoyment from reading about how Porsche AG, the company that makes those fancy sports cars that many men drool over, suckered dozens of hedge funds into losing about 40 billion dollars. Being a person moderately knowledgeable about financial instruments, I can understand how short-selling of a stock can be part of a common sense investment strategy, and a way to "hedge your bets" and minimize losses. When people use 'shorts' solely as a short-term money making opportunity, however, it makes me want to go with the "Garfield strategy," named after what Garfield the Cat would often say in his animated specials, "The people responsible for this should be drug out into the street and shot." (On a side note, how were they able to get away with saying that in what was considered Children's entertainment? Not that I mind, of course.)

So, a tip of the hat to the financial managers at Porsche for doing a number on the barbarians, sending them scurrying off into the wastelands, licking their wounds. Or crawling off to die, as may be the case for a few of the more poorly-managed hedge funds. Whether this ends up being a long-term good thing for Porsche AG, or the first light of a spectacular flame-out, I can't say. It'll be fun to watch it all burn, though!