Saturday, May 14, 2011


Blogger kept saying they were going to restore the posts they wiped out, but that never happened. Instead, I've reconstructed them from the RSS feed. It's not that the content was so deathless and essential that I felt it needed to be preserved forever, but it's irritating to do something and have it deleted.

Games Magazine: Online Contest (Xiangqi/Chinese Chess)

Wayne Schmittberger, my boss at Games Magazine, designed a new online contest based on Chinese Chess (Xiangqi). I haven't tried it yet, but it looks fairly brutal.

The goal is to use the opening setup shown above, and then "determine the number of different positions that can occur after the first player’s (Red’s) second move in a game of xiangqi, if both of Red’s moves are made with cannons. That is, after Red moves a cannon, Black replies with any legal move by any piece, and Red moves a cannon again (either the same cannon as before or the other one), how many different positions can appear on the board?"

Check out the site for the full instructions and details on how to enter the contest. The prizes are a year's subscription to Games Magazine. Deadline is July 1st.

NOTE: This is a republication of a post lost by the Blogger software. Originally posted 5/12/2011.

Home Sheep Home: A Shaun the Sheep Game

Home Sheep Home is a remarkably popular free Java game featured on the Shaun the Sheep home page. It's a simple but immensely appealing puzzle game with a gentle watercolor/ink art style and clever challenges. The goal is to get Shaun, Shirley, and Timmy back to the barn by solving various obstacle-based puzzles. It's not particularly hard, but it's fun nonetheless.

Now, Home Sheep Home has made the leap to the App Store. It's the same as the flash game, but for $1 you can take it along with you on all your plasticine-animated adventures.

NOTE: This is a republication of a post lost by the Blogger software. Originally posted 5/12/2011.

Tetris Gets a Movie

Directed by Michael Bay, starring Johnny Depp as "Four-Block-L-Shaped-Piece," and with special effects by WETA Workshop!

Okay, so I made that up. But there is a Tetris movie, and it's called Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters. In the tradition of The King of Kong, Darkon, The Dungeon Masters, and Word Wars, this is a documentary about a particular gamer subculture, and no doubt will feature the usual obsessives and Aspergians wrapping their entire lives around something most us only find passingly entertaining.

Ecstasy of Order: The Tetris Masters Full Trailer from Adam Cornelius on Vimeo.

NOTE: This is a republication of a post lost by the Blogger software. Originally posted 5/12/2011.

WIM Sona Pertlova Passes Away

Susan Polgar is reporting that Woman International Master Sona Perlova died last Sunday at the age of 23. She was diagnosed with cancer during the 2008 Chess Olympiad.

Viktor Novotny writes:
Sona decided to fight the disease, under the influence of strong medication she played the Dresden Olympiad and undertook the chemotherapy right after it. After a year of intensive medical care she seemed to be fit again and she made the best individual result of the Czech players on the European Team Championship achieving a WGM norm. But the cancer came back. In the September of 2010 she became paralyzed during the tournament in Rijeka and the prediction of the doctors didn’t give much hope.

Our prayers are with Sona and her family.

NOTE: This is a republication of a post lost by the Blogger software. Originally posted 5/12/2011.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Blogger Problems

Blogger had some sort of meltdown and wiped my last couple days worth of posts. They're making noise about restoring them, but so far, nothing. I'm not going to post much until they straighten this out. If my posts don't return by tomorrow, I'll try to reconstruct the lost items.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Scrabble Gets Dumber, Sort Of

Last year around this time, Mattel announced that Scrabble would now "allow" proper nouns in play. (Mattel owns the rights to Scrabble outside of the US, while Hasbro owns the US rights.) This was the outrageous outrage du-jour among the gaming community in general and Scrabble cognoscenti in particular.

Except that Mattel didn't do anything of the sort. They were merely creating a branded spin-off called Scrabble Trickster, and misleading the press just a bit in order to gin up controversy and thus get some free publicity.

It worked like a charm (searches for the phase "Scrabble proper nouns" yield thousands of links), so they decided to do it again.

The latest news is that stupid non-words like "grrl","innit", and "thang" are being added as "official" Scrabble words. Wellllll ... yes and no.

The Collins Official Scrabble Word Book, in a desperate attempt to get themselves permanently dropped as a resource for tournament play, is indeed publishing a new edition with 3,000 additional words, some of them quite stupid. "Innit" is a kind slang contraction, which would exclude it from play. "Grrl" is just an abbreviation that's not abbreviated. No word yet on whether "pwned" is included, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised.

The World Scrabble Championships uses the SOWPODS list as its official word source. SOWPODS is a combination of the US/Canadian Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (the OSPD) and the UK Chambers Official Scrabble Words (the OWL). In 2005, Mattel changed their preferred (non-US) dictionary to the Collins Official Scrabble Word Book, but as far as I can tell, SOWPODS remains on the OSPD/OWL standard. If I'm wrong about that, please correct me and I'll update this post.

The US, Canada, and Thailand still use The Official Tournament and Club Word List (TWL), a modfication of the OSPD for tournament play, so these changes affect US play not at all. One the other hand, WESPA, the World English Scrabble Players Association, appears to be getting ready to use the new Collins list for international play.

All this does is create maximum confusion for international play and further discredit the use of Collins as any kind of international standard. The US player associations were correct to maintain conservative standards for acceptable words, thus avoiding the desperate trend-chasing and regionalisms of the international Scrabble community.

None of this matters one jot, however, in standard play. If someone slams down "grrl" during a home game, you're quite free to shake your head in sad disappointment and refer to the OSPD or TWL. This is exactly why my ancestors fought the Revolutionary War: so I didn't have to suffer stupid British word standards during Scrabble play. Up the Colonies!

Sid Meier Wants to Friend You

CNN has a long story about Sid Meier's upcoming Civilization game for Facebook. The social gaming version of Civ, dubbed Civilization World (or CivWorld), has been rumored at least since 2009, and Meier posted a more detailed note about it last January. The game went into closed alpha-testing shortly thereafter, and remains in that state today. Sid had this to say about the game:
I’m having a really fun time hands-on designing and programming Civ World along with our terrific team at Firaxis. In the coming months, we'll be posting a series of gameplay updates here on the fan page detailing parts of the game. Today I’d like to talk a little bit about the organization of the game to tide you over until that time comes. 
Civ World games will have a well-defined beginning and end, each ending with a triumphant civilization and one person recognized as that game’s most prestigious player. Along the way, as you progress through the different eras of time, you'll have the chance to win era victories as well. We want players to have both a final goal to work towards, as well as short-term objectives to achieve as they play. The trophies you unlock with your triumphs will carry over from game to game, and you can show them off in your throne room.
A social game with a beginning and an end? As if. Social games need to go on and on and on forever, preferably while selling people imaginary coins and annoying as many friends as possible. This Sid Meier guy doesn't know a thing about how to design quality games, like FarmVille.

Epic Gaming Con

Epic Gaming Con is a new gaming convention being held this year in Las Vegas (June 16 – 19 at the Paris Hotel and Casino) and Philadelphia (September 29 – October 2 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center). This is a free-to-attend gathering of board and trading card gamers.

The con is being organized by Cryptozoic Entertainment, which is currently working on a board game based  based upon the Lookout comic from Penny Arcade. It looks like the Cryptids have been inspired by the Penny Arcade gang to create an analog equivalent to the PAX gaming show, which is currently the biggest electronic gaming con in the country.

Is there room for another Gen-Con/Origins-style show on the roster? As long as they reach parts of the country that rarely get board/card-gaming cons, I'd say yes. I never get to either Gen Con or Origins because they're too far away. Since is Philly is just down the road from me, I may actually get to go.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chesterton On Games

I'm an avid Chestertonian, so I loved this shirt from Eternal Revolution, the makers of Uncle Chestnut's Table Gype. Make sure you look around their shop while you're there, and learn a bit about Distributism while you're at it.

UPDATE: Brett J. Gilbert shot me a Twitter message with a link to the entire essay from which this quote is taken. People, if you love language, if you love a man with a cheerful hunger for life, if you simply love good humor, then you need to read more G.K. Chesterton. He is the great author that your teachers kept you from all those years because of his dangerous ideas. You become a better person for having read him.

The Angry Birds Theme by Pomplamoose

And if you need to know more about Pomplamoose, go here.