Saturday, May 21, 2011

Uncle Chestnut's Table Gype on Kickstarter

Paul Nowak of Eternal Revolution has begun a Kickstarter Campaign to continue the production of Uncle Chestnut's Table Gype, which just won a MENSA select award and was also on our Games 100 list for 2011. Paul just sent me a copy of this wonderful game, and I hope to have a review of it here in the near future. In the meantime, enjoy these video that explain a bit about the game, G.K. Chesterton, and Distributism.

Chesterton On Chess and Madness

The previous post about Bobby Fischer calls to mind a famous passage from Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton. Long before Bobby Fischer, G.K. Chesterton wrote of the madness of chess players, the sanity of the imagination, and the challenges of reason. (I've paragraphed the passage to make it easier to read on the blog.)

Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad, and cashiers; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination. Artistic paternity is as wholesome as physical paternity. Moreover, it is worthy of remark that when a poet really was morbid it was commonly because he had some weak spot of rationality on his brain. 
Poe, for instance, really was morbid; not because he was poetical, but because he was specially analytical. Even chess was too poetical for him; he disliked chess because it was full of knights and castles, like a poem. He avowedly preferred the black discs of draughts, because they were more like the mere black dots on a diagram.[...] 
The general fact is simple. Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion, like the physical exhaustion of Mr. Holbein*. To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

*Note: This is a reference to Montague Holbein, who tried to swim the English Channel.

Bobby Fischer Against the World

Susan Polgar posted a link to a trailer for Bobby Fischer Against the World, the first feature documentary about Bobby Fischer. (Polgar is featured at the 22-second mark.)

It's an interesting minute that explains the sheer mathematical complexity of chess, which may or may not be what drove Fischer batty. You can find out more at

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ticket to Ride and Bohnanza Are Now Apps

The headline pretty well says it all.  Ticket to Ride is iPad only. Here's a 5 minute video walk through from Days of Wonder.

Bohnanza, a port of the classic bean-planting card game, is available in regular and HD flavors. I've spent some time with the Bohnanza app and it plays fairly well, albeit a bit slowly.

Both of these are classic Eurogames, now available in handy portal formats for a fraction of their original price. With Tikal released last month and Puerto Rico on the way, the Spring is shaping up to be a very good season for mobile Eurogames.

Review: Stacking (XBLA/PS3)

A game set at the turn of the century dealing with child abduction, labor strife, and poverty, all done in a whimsical silent-movie style and featuring a cast of matryoshka (nesting) dolls with diverse powers? Yeah, Tim Shafer and Double Fine Productions are back.

Stacking is a small, Xbox/PSN Arcade game developed simultaneously with Double Fine’s more high-profile Brutal Legend, and is altogether more entertaining and imaginative than its big-budget cousin.

Stacking concerns the adventures of Charlie Blackmore, the smallest member of a family of nesting dolls. When his siblings are kidnapped and forced into indentured servitude, Charlie is left behind due to his small size. This, however, becomes one of his greatest assets, because Charlie is able to “nest” in any doll that is one size larger than him.

Each kind of doll has a unique power. Some of these are useless, such as playing tag or going to the bathroom. But some are essential for solving puzzles, and therein lay the key to the gameplay. If you need to lure a doorman away from his door, you can use the female doll that screams (he’ll rush to her aid) or the female doll that “seduces” (he’ll fall in love and abandon his post for a few seconds). Many locations include multiple solutions, so you might find yourself clearing a room by (ahem) passing gas into a ventilator, or by infiltrating the room as a mechanic, or by sneaking past the guard.

The variety of dolls and powers along with the detailed environments mean the game is rich in content. You can simply go about collecting new dolls and trying out their powers. You can search out sets of matching dolls in order to learn their stories. Or you can just follow the adventure where it leads by talking to characters and using various doll abilities to solve puzzles.

This is an immensely clever and appealing game. There is a bit of potty humor (belching, flatulence, bathroom visits, etc), but nothing too offensive. The odd and disappointing part is the length. For a game that is jammed with detail and loaded with potential, the adventure itself plays out rather quickly. A sequel—The Lost Hobo King—is already out, but it’s even shorter. I guess there are worse things to say about a game than “I wish it went on longer.”

Site Update

Sorry for the light blogging lately, but a combination of work, vacation, volunteer obligations, the beginning of grad school, minimal gaming time, and the complete meltdown of Blogger conspired to keep me away from the game table and the blog.

Also: I'm lazy.

While I find some balance among work, school, home, and sanity, blogging may be light, but there will still be new content each week. I have a lot of items I've been wanting to review, and I hope to start getting some of those posted next week.

And just so reading this post wasn't a total waste, here's a sculpture made of Scrabble tiles.
The sculpture and the photo are by David Mach (the link is NSFW).

The Rivals For Catan: The Card Editor

I haven't had a chance to play The Rivals for Catan, but I just noticed that Mayfair has a custom card creator for the game. Here's how they describe it:
Here you have the possibility to create your very own playing card within minutes. The “Harald” card serves as a template. Just insert a picture, choose a name, and create a short text for your very own hero card. After that, all you have to do is save your work as a JPG or PDF file, print it, and glue it to the original “Harald” card.