Friday, July 29, 2011

Struggle for Catan: Tutorial

There's a new interactive tutorial available to give you a taste of Struggle for Catan. Check it out.

Kenken: Sudoku With Math

Kenken is a Sudoku variant invented by Tetsuya Miyamoto as a way to teach math. Frankly, Sudoku bores me senseless, but I found the addition of math makes the puzzles much more interesting.

The game is played on grids ranging from 4x4 to 9x9, and the rules are as follows:
  • Do not repeat a number in any row or column.
  • The numbers in each heavily outlined set of squares, called cages, must combine (in any order) to produce the target number in the top corner of the cage using the mathematical operation indicated.
  • Cages with just one box should be filled in with the target number in the top corner.
  • A number can be repeated within a cage as long as it is not in the same row or column.
Short version: the numbers you place in the bold boxes need to yield the number in the corner by multiplication, division, addition, or subtraction. 

Here's a video with Will Shortz (former editor of Games Magazine) explaining how to play.You can find playable puzzles at

Cribbage in the Field (Minneapolis Event)

I had an email from Jordan Wiklund, who writes about cribbage at Cribbageland, and is currently at work on a book of the same name. In collaboration with the Walker Art Museum in Minneapolis, Jordan is running Cribbage in the Field, a "free, family-friendly, all ages cribbage extravaganza."

The event will feature local artisans and their custom cribbage boards, plenty of boards and cards, open play, and even a 5-foot-tall peg from the man who "carved the world's largest board through the ice of a Minnesota Lake." There will also be prizes and raffles, including a one-of-kind custom cribbage board (shown at the right) that currently resides at the Walker.

Location: Walker Art Center, Open Field / 1750 Hennepin Avenue / Minneapolis, MN
Time: 10am - 2pm
Find more information at Facebook or Cribbageland 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Battleship: The Trailer of The Movie of The Game

Otherwise known as "What Transformers Hath Wrought". I thought Battleship might have made a decent period war movie, but that approach would have killed any chances for a toy line.

By my count Ridley Scott is ripping off three different Michael Bay movies (Pearl Harbor, Armageddon, and Transformers) in this trailer. Let me say that again: Ridley Scott (the man responsible for Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, etc.) is ripping off Michael Bay (the man responsible for the Worst Use of an Animal Cracker in Cinematic History, among other offenses).

There are no battleships left in any Navy in the world, so this movie makes about as much sense as fat-free half-and-half.

Consoles Now Only 40% Of the Videogame Market Says ...

... the CEO of Electronic Arts, John Riccitiello. It used to be 80%. In an interview with Industry Gamers, the big boss of the biggest game company on the planet says that iPad is their fastest growing market, the Wii U is just fine, and people need to basically get a grip on the seismic changes in the electronic entertainment industry:
We have a new hardware platform and we’re putting out software every 90 days. Our fastest growing platform is the iPad right now and that didn’t exist 18 months ago. So the idea that we’re categorizing the industry as being [cyclical]... Nintendo is off cycle with what? I mean, the point of reference is gone. And so Nintendo is bringing out a new platform that brings together some of what we’re learning from new media and new platforms like the iPad and then integrating that with a console. It’s the perfect time for that in the industry."
As I've been saying. Somehow videogame analysts got locked into this idea of cyclical hardware updates (PSX, PS2, PS3, etc..., every 6 years) driven by a demand for more processing power. Nintendo blew the second half of that equation out of the water with the under-powered Wii, and they're about to blow the first half out of the water with the "off-cycle" Wii U.

I'll say it again: the old patterns are dying. The next dinosaur to get a comet upside the head is the militaristic FPS genre. If Activision thinks they can spin Call of Duty sequels out to infinity, they're in for a rude awakening. I'm in the process of surveying the entire electronic industry for the Games 100, and I can tell you without hesitation that the only consistently creative and innovative platform is mobile gaming.

Rory’s Story Cubes

Rory’s Story Cubes (GameWright, $8) is not so much a game is it is a “creative story generator.” Designed by Irishman Rory O'Connor as a tool for tapping creativity, this compact package delivers a lot of fun in either solo or group play.

There are nine dice in a box a little larger than a deck of cards. These 9 dice offer a total of 54 faces, and each face displays a different icon: apple, fish, lock, rainbow, house, lightening bolt, and so on. Players roll all the dice at once, and then choose a starting image. They begin with “Once upon a time” or some similar opening, and then use that image to begin a story that will weave together all of the face-up images.

Here’s one example from a 10-year-old I found living in my house. She rolled sad face, magic wand, tree, fire, cane, arrow, flashlight, compass points, and magnifying glass, and came up with this (with apologies to JK Rowling). 
There once was a wizard who was very unhappy. His name was Harry Potter. Harry’s magic wand made of pine tree bark had burned in a wizard duel with Draco Malfoy! He was forced to use a cane and when it broke he had to use an arrow! When he went home it was dark and since he couldn’t cast Lumos, he used a flashlight. (This is very unusual for a wizard.) When he got home he found all of his belongings spread in all directions! He used a magnifying glass and found Draco’s fingerprints! Draco was sent to Azkaban and was never seen again.
The genius of the design is its simplicity and flexibility. People can collaborate on stories, select themes, or just play alone. Both kids and adults—solo, or with a family or even in a party setting—can all enjoy it. Home-schoolers in particular might find it a useful tool for jump-starting the brain before a day of a work.

Monday, July 25, 2011

App O' The Mornin': Candy Train

Rating: A
Price: Free

Sometimes, the quality of a game is measured by the degree of frustration it can create while still drawing you back to play. During my first half hour with Candy Train (PopCap, free), I could punched my finger straight through my Touch at least once per minute. It has that maddening frustration that can only come with cute and colorful games, as though their childlike qualities mock your inability to play them successfully.

Candy Train is a remake of an old Java title that was still floating around on the internet until recently. (I can't find a current version, so it's probably been removed to keep attention on the mobile port.) It is insanely addictive, perhaps because you always seem so close to getting it juuuust right, moments before you fail completely. This is really just a train pathing game with a tile-switching mechanic, but it’s one of the most appealing free puzzlers to appear on the iOS format this year.

The game is played on an 8x8 grid comprised of tiles representing different track configurations. There are curves, double curves, straightaways, and crossings. Tiles are turned by tapping, thus reorienting the track configuration. In this way, you create a path for the train to follow as it collects points and gathers new cars filled with candy and other treats. If your tracks don’t connect, the train crashes and the game ends.

After all the cars on a map are collected, you attach a caboose and steer the train to the switching point for the next level, where you begin again with more cars. Aside from changing the train speed from slow to fast, there are no other controls.

The normal mode is tough enough, but the expert mode is maddening (in a good way). This is a tricky game to get into, but great fun once you start to master it.