Category Archives: games

Bordercon 2012: wrapup

We’ve been going to Albury over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend every year since 2006. At first, it was for the Australian Games Expo, which later moved to be held in Canberra over the Australia Day weekend in January. Since 2009, though, it’s been for Bordercon – an annual get-together of gamers from all around the country – at least from South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland.

It gets better every year.

Highlights – as those who follow my Twitter feed will know – were, as always, catching up with friends. From a games perspective, the highlights for me were:

  • Mare Balticum – a 30 minute filler game with stunning artwork created first as a 3D model and then photographed. This will be a great family game for our family. There’s an advanced version which I’ve not yet tried – but after learning the basic game on Saturday morning I taught (and played) it five or six times over the rest of the con. Bought a copy.
  • Lords of Waterdeep – it’s sort of D&D-themed Caylus. Which already sounds awesome. I only played this on Sunday night because some friends like it and really wanted to play it, and I didn’t expect much. But then I taught it (and played it again) on Monday, and then I bought a copy after we came home. Again, a nice family game, although I don’t think Otto is quite up to the nasty bits. Bigster should like it, though.
  • Big Points – this is one that we’ve been playing a lot. We had a rule wrong, and it is SO MUCH TOUGHER when you play it properly. A game that works well with kids as well as with adults.
  • Tiaras! We dressed for dinner on Saturday night, and then played BurgenBurgenBurgenBurgenBurgen Burgen^5 Castles of Burgundy in appropriately dressy clothing. With tiaras and glitter hats that made Terry’s face sparkle. And a lace table runner.
  • Time’s Up on Saturday night. After Burgen^5. Note to friends: Queen – of which Freddy Mercury was the lead singer – sang a song called “Fat Bottomed Girls”. You all have filthy minds.

Other things that were awesome: The record raffle takings. Over $2000 raised to support Border Cystic Fibrosis – an organisation that supports families caring for a child or children with CF. (Albury has regional Victoria’s highest rates of CF).

The lowlight, by a country mile, was the Sunday night dinner at Hog’s Breath (a steak/ribs chain restaurant) in Albury. We’ve eaten at Hog’s Breath every year and the service has got worse each time. This year, they have done their dash. The rest of my family arrived at 6:20; I followed to arrive at 6:30 (booked time). Our orders weren’t taken until about 7 and at 7:30 we still had no drinks. A beer arrived for Fraser at 7:45 (after we had TWICE asked to speak to the manager and been told he would be there soon) but we don’t think it was really his, as all our drinks appeared at 8. By now, Otto was in tears, having waited over 90 minutes for her dinner already. (It didn’t help that we’d refused a 5pm snack as we were headed out for Big Dinner). Our meals finally arrived after 8:30. We had been ready to leave, but were concerned that the rest of the group would be charged for them even though we hadn’t eaten them. The couple with the baby left though. We didn’t bother to stay for dessert, and went to Cold Rock for ice creams instead. And didn’t leave a tip either. They really cost themselves a lot of money over that night.

The other low point was playing a truly dreadful game. About alcoholic clowns in a circus. Of which more tomorrow. Because others should share my pain.


Posted by on June 12, 2012 in games


More bordercon thinking

My Bordercon packing list just grew.

  • Time’s Up: Deluxe edition
  • Something awesome to donate to the fundraiser raffle
  • Baked Goodness
  • a Tiara.

Also, my friend still has the Inspection Camera. So it might not come with me. (Stop it. I know you are disappointed.)

Because it will be cold in Albury, I bought Fraser a beanie with a beard. He says if he wears it in public he will be arrested. I say that’s a poor excuse and if he really loved me he would wear it.

I bought new jumpers for both the girls today, too. But no facial hair adornments. I am seeing a theme here.

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Posted by on June 6, 2012 in games, going_out


This week in my life

There was a trip to the dentist. Resulting in a bruised jaw and droopy anaesthetised eyelid. Very attractive, me.

Also two trips to the Children’s Hospital, involving four vials of blood and a chest x-ray.

There was a trip to my accountant to do OMGTAX. And, if I manage to squeeze it in, a trip to the local council offices to view and photocopy the plans for our house.

There were traffic lights on Facebook that made it into my blog. And a bad friend who quoted the Traffic Light song and now I have an earworm.

There was a Diagram of Cheese, which did not. Until now. I don’t think it’s very complete.

There was an ill-advised Trip to IKEA (if I count last Sunday as part of this week).

Two gifts were bought for Fraser. He does not know what they are so I cannot tell you, Dear Reader. But they are awesome. And one might be for Sharing. Tragically, though, neither of them is Spy Cufflinks.

There was lots of work, jammed in between driving the Bigster around and hangin’ at the hospital.

And Nigerian Spam, addressed to Dearest One. Which made me feel happy even though it was from the Bad People.

There were no games at all, and only one very mediocre book. (See my slightly ranty review of the latest Pern novel, Todd & Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon’s Time at Goodreads – warning, SPOILERS sweetie!)

But there were TWO purple vegetables. Neither of which is usually purple.

And there was excitement about the upcoming Doctor Who card game by Martin Wallace.

As weeks go, I’d give it a 7.5/10.


Things to Pack for Bordercon

In a couple of weeks, we’re going away to spend a few days with friends, playing boardgames.

It must be time to get my packing list together.

So far, it looks like this:

I feel this list needs to grow.


Posted by on May 23, 2012 in be happy, friends, games


Weekend games for adults too!

As I mentioned a few days ago, last weekend was a really good one for gaming.

Two friends came over on Saturday night. We started with a quick 3-player game of Nelly (Andreas, Ueli & Lukas Frei, Queen Games). Reading reviews of this, I think that (a) I was missing some sticky bits that might have helped to prevent the turtles slipping off Nelly’s back quite so quickly and (b) I did not take the instruction to “hold your nose” quite literally enough. I will not make the second mistake again!

The meat for the evening, though, was Macao (Stefan Feld, Alea/Rio Grande). Feld is my hero of gaming at the moment because his games are just that good. We were all relatively familiar with this game so there was just a reminder stage rather than an actual rules explanation needed, which is always good.

This was my third play, I think, of Macao. It’s a clever game where you gain resources not for now but for later – and the later you get them, the more you get. Lots of planning and thought – but in micro stages, so the analysis paralysis never becomes overwhelming.There are some bonuses tiles that score at the end of the game, but this is not one of those games (cough Stone Age and Egizia I am looking at you) where you score 12 points during the game and then 5,000 points in Secret End-Game Bonuses. Because I am quite literal-minded, I like to call those, “The Games Melissa Does Not Like.”

Anyway, bonuses aside, I was pleased because I achieved my personal victory condition: Scoring More Than Fraser. I came second to Stefanie but you get quite used to that when you play with Stefanie. And she had THIRTY POINTS in end-game bonuses. (This was the OK kind though because we knew about them. And I had 17 or so.)

The other good thing about Saturday night, apart from Playing Games, was Getting Games. Ever since I heard about Die Burgen von Burgund / Castles of Burgundy (Stefan Feld, Alea), I have wanted to try it. (So has Fraser, not least because he calls it Burgen Burgen Burgen Burgen Burgen and giggles when he says it.) It was originally released in a three-language edition at Essen OMGYEARS ago, but was never picked up by Rio Grande Games for their Alea reprint editions. Now Ravensburger have finally released an English-language edition and I’d been waiting for it to reach Australia.

I had a message from MilSims that it should be in some time last week, so on Friday morning I rang them to find out whether it was in. “We’re just unpacking it now,” they told me – which was great, because the Bigster wanted a copy of Dominion to give her best friend for her birthday, and MilSims’ price on that is nearly half what others charge. The new game wasn’t on their website yet, so I couldn’t order it – so I asked them to put a copy of each aside and then begged a friend to collect them for me. Apparently when she got there they hadn’t even put it on their system yet. How was I so desperate for it! Gamers! *eyeroll*

We didn’t play this on Saturday because it would have been a learning game for us all, but Fraser and I broke it out for a two-player learning game on Sunday night – and it did not disappoint. Another very tight game about making the most of what is available and finding groups that work well together. I’m not very good at this type of game but I enjoy it a lot. We’re still pretty slow, because we’re learning what all the tiles do, but we managed a second play with a friend last night (which featured 37 points of chickens) and scored a lot more than we had before.

And then we played Kingdom Builder (Donald X Vaccarino, Queen Games) which is just fun on cardboard. With house placement. I think I like this more than Dominion.

And I think we’ll play them both again this weekend.


Posted by on May 11, 2012 in games


Weekend Kids’ Games Roundup

As the weather gets worse and the weekends get rainier, it’s good to have some games to fill our time. We managed three – really four – separate gaming sessions this weekend, which is a bit of a record. Especially as two featured children’s games.

Saturday morning, my brother brought my niece and nephew round for kidgameapalooza. Nephew is a bit young for games yet, but Niece is just getting interested. We lent them Picco Popolino (The animal bottom game) and The Kids of Catan (which Fraser picked up in his massive game buying spree last year and was still in shrink) a few weeks ago and they have really loved them. Auntie Lissa’s Game Library appears to be a bit of a drawcard at the moment.

We started with Nelly (by Andreas, Ueli and Lukas Frei). The hippopotamus dexterity game from Queen, that is. Players were me, Otto (9), Brother (with help from Nephew) and Niece (5). And it was delightful!

As with so many of our things, I have a special story about this game. In 2009, when we were at Essen, we saw the posters for this game and – for a special private reason that those of you who know us in person will recognise – desperately wanted one. As the fair was closing – technically, after it had closed on the last day – we were making our way to the doors and went past the Queen games stand. And there, supervising pack-up, was Rajive Gupta, the company’s CEO/President, who I had met very briefly earlier in the fair. I wandered over and asked whether it might be possible to get a poster for the game. And when I explained why, he reached over and took not the used poster I was asking for but a brand-new in-shrink copy of the game from the pile and presented it, with a flourish, to Otto. Not to be outdone, he took another new game and gave it to the Bigster.

We tell that story whenever we play the game. I should probably write it inside the box, which is gamer heresy but is also a thing we like to do. Because our games are not just an activity, they’re a whole lot of memories too.

And we all had a wonderful time. It’s a beautiful game which I’d not played because I (wrongly) thought it would be long & complex. Instead, it’s quick (under 15 minutes although the very first game has some setup overhead) and especially great for mixed-age groups. And there was cheering.

Next up was Dweebies (Tim Roedinger), a very quick card-game from Gamewright. This was probably a bit old for Niece, although she was excited and proud to score one long row. Nephew wanted to place cards too, so I found our copy of Koffer Packen and he played happily with those very sturdy tile-like cards.

Third and final game with this group of visitors was Beep! Beep! (Reinhard Staupe) – a Blink-style game from Valley Games in Canada. This game is still a favourite with the Bigster and her friends because of its speed and its adorable artwork (not to mention the squeezy car). Nephew particularly enjoyed the squeezy car. Niece was far too well-mannered to cope with a free-for-all speed-based game; she wanted to take turns.

The second session was on Sunday afternoon. A colleague had asked for kids’ game recommendations and had – at my suggestion – bought Make ‘n’ Break (Andrew & Jack Lawson) and Halli Galli (Haim Shafir). Now she was keen to try some more. She brought her daughters (who are 6 and 8, I think) over to see what we had. This session wasn’t so much about trying newer games as introducing some of the real classics (is it pretentious to call them “modern classics”?). I don’t think they will ever want to be a Gamer Family as such, but I could see them enjoying games like Carcassonne in the future, as well as party games like Time’s Up. And a wider range of kids’ games, of course.

Catch the Match (Reinhard Staupe) was a good choice to get them looking. One of the girls thought she had seen this at her primary school in prep. This is one of my favourite ‘small’ games for younger kids – not least because it is both a game and a solo activity. (As an aside: I was excited to read that Catch the Match Duo is coming out later this year).

Apples to Apples Kids (Matthew Kirby & Mark Alan Osterhaus) is another great game which they seemed to enjoy and then asked to borrow.

and … wow … I’m a bit stuck. All the games blur a bit. I know that I showed them Sherlock (Reinhard Staupe) and Viva Topo! (Manfred Ludwig) because they borrowed both. Sherlock is another of my go-to kids’ games (although I usually only lay out 6 cards instead of 8 when I am demoing it) and Viva Topo! won Best Children’s Game in the Boardgames Australia awards, and hits that “bit more complicated, lot more beautiful” spot.

They left with a bag of 5 loaner games and big smiles.

Otto was annoyed that we hadn’t got to Lego Harry Potter: Hogwarts (Cephas Howard & Henk van der Does) so she and I had a quick game of that. My sneaky Slytherins snuck in a glorious victory. This is a really excellent spatial game in the spirit of the classic Ravensburger aMAZEing Labyrinth games. But with LEGO, which makes everything more awesome.

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Posted by on May 8, 2012 in children, games


My other life

I downloaded The Sims Freeplay for my iPad a few months back. I missed the whole Sims phenomenon when it was first released, for good reason as it turns out. These days, Otto “shares” the game with me.

Here are some things I have learned:

  • I have great difficulty intentionally getting my sims to the point of wetting themselves.
  • Otto, however, does not.
  • To the point where, if I have a couple living in the same house, I usually build two toilets.
  • Otto loves to spend both types of in-game currency. I kinda have to threaten her to keep her from doing it.
  • The coolest people work nights.
  • No matter how good your oven is, it is always going to take 6 hours to bake gingerbread.
  • If my sims go to the toilet, I have to get them to wash their hands afterwards. Even if they are not registering as dirty.
  • Ditto before and after changing the baby’s nappy.
  • Speaking of which, there is a very small window of opportunity between sleep and poop.
  • Actually scratch that last one. I knew that already.
  • They also wash hands before eating and after gardening.
  • My brain is OMG SO SUCKABLE. OK – I knew that already too. I must never buy this game for the PC or I would never do anything else.
  • Sims can do baking without getting full. I wish I knew what they do with all the cookie dough that they should be eating.
  • People with expensive beds need less sleep.
  • Dogs like to dig.
  • Talking to a dog is as good as talking to a person.
  • And the true measure of quality of life is how good a shower you have. And whether you have a pink bookshelf.

Posted by on May 7, 2012 in games


Things you should never say to a gamer

There are things that you should just never say to a gamer. In case you are ever tempted, I have made a handy reference list. Feel free to print it out and keep it in your wallet or handbag next time you will be catching up with the boardgamer in your life.

  • “Is that the new Monopoly?”
  • “I know it’s my turn but I just have to call my hairdresser. And my cleaner. And my mum.”
  • “Oops. At least red wine doesn’t stain THAT badly.”
  • “They’ve taken it outside to play.”
  • “Can I get that at K-mart?”
  • “Are those puzzles?”
  • “That Roads and Boats game … I saw that at a garage sale last weekend. It was only $5. Guess I should have bought it huh …”
  • “I blame the translator.”
  • “We ordered pizza and played your game while we ate it.”
  • “Can we play Mousetrap now?”

Any more suggestions?


Posted by on April 27, 2012 in games


BGGcon Day 3

Despite what the title suggests, I am not actually AT the Boardgamegeek Boardgaming Convention in Dallas. My husband, however, is – so this is now Day 3 of my temporary Gaming Widowhood.

And we are having fun, my girls, the kittens, and me. We had at-home Parma night last night (tonight I’m thinking about doing half-price Margaritas). Bigster’s inviting the boys around after school while mum and Otto go for ice cream. This morning, I gave her $10 instead of a packed lunch (fortunately, her school does have a canteen so it’s not quite as bad a deal as it sounds). Otto’s taught me to cut mangoes the way daddy does, and it’s just vaguely possible that the cats haven’t always been shut down the back of the house overnight. Eclipse likes to sleep in the bathroom anyway, but Snowflake spent the night on my bed and was still asleep when I woke this morning. I’ve finished the dishwasher tablets that Fraser hates (despite temptation to save them for when he gets back) and even have the kids doing some housework. If “housework” means “unloading the dishwasher and setting the table”. Bigster wants to OMGTIDYTHEHOUSE before the boys come over. Feel free, kiddo.

Stalking Fraser is significantly easier now that he has free Internet access at the BGGcon hotel and my iPad to keep him company. If we’d known the WiFi would be free, he could have taken his own instead of reading all my secrets. Meanwhile, Otto has somehow (and I really, REALLY haven’t paid her at all to say this) decided that it is NOT FAIR that daddy gets to go away and I should go next time. I don’t think it’s because I am OMGSOMEAN always, either. (Note: In fact, the only reason that Fraser is there this year and I am not is that I was stupid. I saw the very cheap flights and spent several days persuading him to go again – without it occurring to me, until after I had booked, that I could have gone instead. D’oh!)

Poor Fraser has in fact been sent off with a brief games wishlist (we’ll see whether anything appears) as well as a copy of my BGG wishlist (which is somewhat longer). He’s nervous that he won’t have space for anything in his luggage, but I figure he has two suitcases with him (one empty) so really one of them should just be filled with STUFF FOR ME. We’ll see how that works out. I have, however, succumbed to one tempation: I ordered a Kindle, to be shipped to his hotel. And some LEGO for Christmas. I wanted to get some clothes for Otto, too, but I think that would be that one step too far.

Which is dumb, right – it’s not like they would be dirty, so he could use them to stuff all my game boxes to stop them getting squashed.


Posted by on November 16, 2011 in family, games



Spiel 2011

I’ve spent the last five days in Essen – in spirit, if not in body. Thanks to the many blogs and dedicated reporters, Essen news gets out quickly – and thanks to bgg’s streaming video service, we can even see demos from the comfort of our own homes.

My plans to intrepidly experience the full virtual Essen were sadly doomed to failure. Timezones are not always friendly – 9am Essen time is 6pm here in Melbourne; My family didn’t seem to understand the meaning of “I’m doing this and will be unavailable after 6pm”; I had to work on key days; and the Bigster’s school evilly scheduled its annual musical breakfast for Sunday morning. Oy vey!

These issues and evil bandwidth-hogging neighbors aside, I managed to see a lot of the live stream and even to catch up on a few of the videos after the fact. I was very proud to make it all the way to the 7pm closing on Saturday night(4am), although less so when I had to get up at 7am for the concert. It was very very good, but still … 90 minutes’ sleep was really Not Enough.

The videos aren’t a passive experience. There’s chat, of course, which is a great part of the weekend and one I look forward to. And this year I found there was more support needed, particularly at the start, so between bgg, ustream and twitter I was kept pretty busy.

The quality of the presentations varied a bit this year. Kudos to the designers and publishers who checked out the live stream before their presentations. Props, too, to the people who tried something a little different. I was disappointed, though, that no-one tried lying on the table to present their game to the overhead camera.

And now, my wish list is astonishing. Really astonishing. I need to whittle it down and rework it – but first,i need to watch the rest of he videos. You never know when you’ll find a gem.


Posted by on October 24, 2011 in essen, games