Friday, September 30, 2011

Boardcrafting: For the Catan Fan Who Has Everything

Tile-shifting can be moderately annoying when playing Catan, so a San Francisco craftsman is creating wooden tile sets and frames for the basic, 4th edition game, 4-player version. These handsome, laser-cut tiles can be bought in a variety of configurations from the Boardcrafting Kickstarter page, which has already attracted enough support to get the project off the ground. 

H/T Kevin Schlabach

Les Osselets (Knucklebones)

 "Les Osselets" (The Game of Knucklebones)
by Jean-Baptise-Someon Chardin, 1734
A little bit of art for your weekend. This painting is called "Les Osselets," by Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, and currently hangs in the Baltimore Museum of Art. The titles translates as "The Ossicles," which really doesn't help us much, because in English "ossicles" are the little bones in your ear. In French, according to my little dictionary, an ossicle is supposedly a knucklebone, which gets us closer to the meaning of this painting.

The young woman is tossing a ball in the air while four knucklebones lie on the table. Knucklebones were a common game element dating back to ancient Greece and Rome, where they may have been a precursor to dice. The bones are long and wide on two sides, long and narrow on two sides, and short and narrow on two sides. They are sanded down to allow them to land on different edges when thrown, and various games have different names and scores for each landing configuration. Also: they're not actually knucklbones: they're the ankle bones from a sheep.

The game usually is played as it is here: as an early version of jacks, with the bones collected before the ball lands. The other way to play was to toss the bones in the air and try to catch them on the back of the hand. Wiki actually has a pretty good summary of different ways to score in some versions, but some of their historical data is off. (Plato mentions dice and checkers in the Phaedrus, not knucklebones.)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Masskrugstremmen: The Sport of Beer Holding

"Masskrugstremmen" means "beer-stein holding," and it comes from the wonderful land of Bavaria, home of Werner Herzog, the Pope, and 25% of my ancestors. You have to hold a beer extended at arm's length for as long as you can. (Then you get to drink it. Duh.) Legend has it one might man lasted over 20 minutes. Seven feet tall he was, with arms like tree trunks! Went by the name of Homer.

We need more sports like this. Onward to the Olympics!

H/T Sean P. Dailey

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Think They Mean It

"What's all this then?"

From the curiously titled Children's Games With Things, by Iona and Peter Opie

Can Amazon Produce an iPad Killer?

Time will tell, but Amazon and Android converging for a new touch device called the Kindle Fire could alter the gaming landscape yet again. (It's being altered radically about once a year.) The Fire is certainly attractively priced at $200, and the feature set looks good on paper. Expanded Kindle and multimedia features, plus the ability to play Android apps and cloud streaming, could be a complete game changer across all media. It all depends upon the technology, which looks like it will be less robust than iPad2. But at $200, how robust does it need to be for people looking for an entry-level tab/reader?

I'm putting the full press release after the jump. It describes all the new models of Kindle, which is probably one model too many. Consumers get confused over too many price points and model variants.

You can order today:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Diablo is in the Details

New column at Maximum PC. Excerpt:
Online communities need an outrageous outrage every once in a while to give the forum jockeys some opportunity to vent. The latest tempest in an A-cup is Blizzard's decision to give Diablo III an "always online" DRM system, meaning you need a live Internet connection to play the game. People were reacting to this with the kind of disbelief, betrayal, and fury usually reserved for something like Neville Chamberlain signing away Czechoslovakia.
You cannot fathom my indifference to this issue. I play everything on Steam, and my connection is always on. Yes, I know I am fortunate and that some people have bad (or no) internet connections. They're already missing out on all kinds of great things like cute puppy videos and an uninterrupted Twitter streams, so they must be used to the poignant sting of disappointment by now. I don't know why "always on" DRM for Diablo III should really wreck their day. It's not like there's really a shortage of ways to waste your time in the modern world.

Complaints against the column seem to come down to 1) the industry totally exaggerates piracy losses, and it's really no big deal (which explains why they spend millions on loss prevention), or 2) I totally don't mention mods (which I totally don't mention not because I forgot or was covering up for Blizzard, but because I really, truly don't care), or 3) I've been bought off by Blizzard (in which case my check is way overdue).

I've got the Diablo III beta all loaded up and ready go, but I haven't been able to spend any time on it thanks to a) the flu (in case I haven't told you, immunosuppressants really suck), and b) Space Marine, which I need to write up this week. (Advance tip: DO NOT play Space Marine on PC. It's a mess.)

So, if you want kvetch, go on over to the Max PC forums. They love that stuff.