Wednesday, January 30, 2008


No, this isn't a post about gambling, though I am a fan of television poker (World Series of Poker etc); it's another new game I've played this year.

Except I'm not going to count it towards my New Games Quest. Why? Well because it's a card game played with regular playing cards. And that's not all together new. So it's not going on the list, but as it's a game and this is a blog about games, it still rates a mention.

What is Casino? Until last Wednesday I hadn't even heard of it. Having said that, there is some strange inkling jingling around in the far reaches of my brain that says I have actually heard the name in the context of card games before. We'll ignore that inkling for now and just carry on.

I was unwell and invited The Giggling One to play a game on the bed. In the spirit of the quest thing I figured we'd try a two player game that we'd never played before. She pulled out my Encyclopedia of Games and I riffled through the card games section seeking a likely candidate.

That's how I found Casino. The book describes it thusly: This unusual game has its origins in medieval France and is still popular in Italy and eastern Mediterranean countries. It has more in common with traditional Chinese 'fishing' games than with most other Western card games.

It took a little while to understand the rules as they weren't particularly well written. In fact, it wasn't until afterwards when I read the rules for the next game in the book, Scopa - a relative of Casino - that some of the terms were properly explained. So we probably didn't play it 100% correctly, but we got the gist of it.

The aim of the game is to capture as many cards as possible. Here's how it works:

  • Each player receives four cards face-down. Four more cards are dealt face-up in the middle of the table (well, doona for us). The actually dealing order is two cards face-down to the non-dealer, then two face-up to the table, then two face-down to the dealer, then repeat.

  • Each player then takes their four cards to form their hand. One at a time, starting with the non-dealer, each player must play one, and only one, card to the table. What they do with that card is up to them. There are three options:

  • Option 1: Capture one or more cards from the table. To capture a single card, the value of that card must equal the value of the card played. For example, you can play the 8 of Clubs in order to capture the 8 of Diamonds. You can capture multiple cards if their combined face values add up to the card you're playing. Taking the 8 of Clubs example again, if there is a 5, a 2 and an Ace on the table, they can all be captured with your 8.

  • You can capture as many combinations that add up to your card value as you like, so with your 8 you could capture another 8 and the 5,2,A. You can also capture builds (see Option 2) with the same value as your card. Court cards have no value and can only be captured by a matching court card, but if you do this you can only capture one (to make a pair) or three (to make all four) at a time. Who knows where these rules originate or why?

  • Captured cards are kept in a face-down pile (along with the capturing card) by the capturing player. If you capture all the cards currently on the table at once, you get a sweep, and keep one of those cards face-up so you know how many sweeps you've taken. Neither of us got any in our game.

  • Option 2: Build. You can add your card to another card on the table to make a combined total. eg. You add your 6 to a 2 to make an 8. However, you can only do this if you also have a card in your hand equal to the value of the build. That is, you can only add a 6 to a 2 if you also have an 8 in your hand. Your opponent can then add a card from their hand (with the same restriction) to make the total higher still (though it can never exceed 10). For example, they can add an Ace to the 6 and 2 and make the total 9, as long as they also have a 9 in their hand. This is known as a single build because it involves only one card from the table to begin with, regardless of how many cards are played onto it from the players' hands.

  • Building therefore allows you to capture multiple cards at once on your next turn, though you're taking the chance your opponent might swipe them before you get a chance to do so.

  • You can also do what's called a multiple build. Here's where things get a little tricky so stay with me. We had to read the rules a few times to get our heads around this one. Once you've played a card from your hand on to a card on the table to form a single build, you can then grab another card on the table of the same value as the existing build and add it to the build. If you do this the value stays the same and cannot be changed.

  • For example, if you play a 3 from your hand on to a 5 on the table, if there is an 8 on the table as well, you can add that to the build and declare you are "building 8s". The value of this build is now set at 8 and cannot be changed (you can't add a 2 and make the value 10).

  • Any player may further add to the multiple build by playing a card from their hand either by itself or with another table card to the build as long as the value is the same as that of the build. I could therefore play a 6 on to a 2 and add those to the 8 build.

  • The same rules apply as with single builds, in that you can only make a multiple build if you have another card in your hand equal to the value of the build.

  • Option 3: Trail a card. The term trail means to place a card face-up on the table by itself without capturing (obviously) or building. This is usually going to happen when you can't capture anything with any card in your hand, or there are no cards currently on the table (because the other player made a sweep).

  • Once you've made or added to a build you are not allowed to trail a card until that build value is changed (in the case of single builds) or the build is captured by your opponent. That's because you have to have a card in your hand to capture the build with at the time you make the build. You don't have to capture it immediately though. You can start a new build or add to an existing build if you wish, as long as you don't trail.

  • Once both players have exhausted their hand cards (after eight turns), the dealer deals four more cards, two at a time, to each player. This continues until no more cards are available to be dealt.

  • Any cards left over on the table once the final card is played at the end of the game go to the player who made the last capture. Capturing cards this way does not constitute a sweep unless they are taken in the normal course of play.

  • Then, finally, if you've trawled your way through this post, you can tally the scores as follows:

    > For capturing most cards: 3 points
    > For capturing most spades: 1 point
    > For capturing the 10 of Diamonds (Big Casino): 2 points
    > For capturing the 2 of Spades (Little Casino): 1 point
    > For each Ace captured: 1 point
    > For each sweep: 1 point

  • If there is a tie for most cards or most spades, neither player scores a point.

    There you have it. It'll play quicker than it took me to type all of that, and it's not overly strategic. We thought it was OK, but not brilliant. Any comments welcome. For the record, in my battle with The Giggling One we played 3 games, and I was victorious 2-1. We're in no rush to play it again. I have more important games on my agenda. More about that soon...
  • Thursday, January 24, 2008

    Giggles' Airport Game

    I really don't know how this blog ended up morphing into an outlet for my current obsession with games. Not that it was something else to begin with, but I've wanted to try my hand at blogging for some time, and, well, it coincided with this sudden urge to play games.

    I've liked games for years. I grew up in a family that likes games. Over the years I've played plenty of computer games, but the board game side of the ledger has been pretty empty. Which, in a round about way led me to come up with my own game creations.

    I've created a number of silly little games as time has gone by, usually with the help of friends, and I'll blog about those too no doubt as time goes by. For now though, I'll kick off the whole Game Creations part of the blog with a game created not by me, but by The Giggling One. With my help of course.

    Giggles' Airport Game, or GAG for short came into being at - you'll never guess this - an airport. I know! It's not a board game, but it could be called a "bored game" - you know, if you're waiting for your flight to be called and you're really bored. Or perhaps a "pre-board-ing game".

    Tacky puns aside, it amused us to play this game while we were waiting at the airport to fly to Melbourne one day. The idea is that you take it in turns to choose an action that is going to, or is likely to occur, somewhere within your sight in the airport. You designate two possible outcomes of that action, making them as even as possible, and then the other player gets to choose which of the outcomes they think will occur. The person who designated the event takes the other option.

    So, using examples of events we picked at the time, one person could say "The sex of the next person to walk up to the counter of the muffin bar", or "The next airline to land on the runway" (we only had two airlines servicing our airport at the time), or "The half of the eating area where the next person will sit", or "the first person to get up out of the two sitting at that table over there", or "the first person to spot us when The Giggling One's parents get here" (they were flying to Melbourne with us).

    And so on. You get a point if you're right. Whoever has the most points by the time your flight is called, or you get sick of the game, wins. It's simple and fun and a good way to spend the time waiting for your plane. You don't have to pick all the events before you start either. You can just keep making them up as you go along.

    I'd also better state that The Giggling One was the winner in that first game, or she'll not be pleased. The next time we fly anywhere, I plan to have my revenge. Goes without saying really doesn't it?

    Saturday, January 19, 2008

    One down, Four to go

    My resolution to play at least five new games this year has started well. Last night, The Giggling One and I were invited to join Paul and his other half Narelle, along with their friend Bernd, in a game of Kings Keep.

    Kings Keep is a Tasmanian produced card game for 2 to 8 players where the players form a defensive line of cards and use these to attack and defend against other players' cards. The object of the game is to knock out the cards in the other players' lines so that their "land" cards behind can be captured.

    There are only 6 lands in the deck: 1 Castle (worth the most and hardest to capture), 2 Towns and 3 Villages (the least valuable). As all lands are dealt it means not everyone starts with the same number of lands. Having more lands to start with isn't the advantage you might think, and it all works out fairly evenly.

    The other cards are used to attack and defend the lands. These include the powerful Legendary Champion (of which there are only 3 in the deck), Knights, Soldiers, Peasants and Archers. There are also Mercenary cards which, when attacking, can defeat anything except a Wall, but when defending, can be defeated by any card with an attack value. The Wall itself can't attack but is a very handy defensive card as it can only be defeated by a Siege Engine. The Siege Engine is useful for knocking down walls but not much else. The Spy lets you see what cards an opponent has on the top of his line (each line can be a maximum of three cards wide, and two cards high), while the Villain allows you to steal one card at random from an opponents hand. There are also Arrow cards which allow you to attack from a distance as long as you have an Archer somewhere in your line.

    As the game goes on, each player can either attack, replenish their line from their hand (everyone starts with 12 cards including lands, and construct their line out of a maximum of 6 of these cards), or pass (usually when they've run out of attacking cards). Once everyone has passed consecutively, the round ends and the person with the most land value wins.

    OK, so it's probably a tad confusing to understand just from my blurb above. If you're curious to learn more, then head over to Board Game Geek. The Kings Keep section includes two Powerpoint presentations showing how the game play works.

    You can also read my extended recap of how last night's game went down, including my awesome tactical move that saw me clean up in the second game here.

    With one game down I'm well on my way to my goal, and having discovered that Bernd hosts a games night on the first Friday of each month, I think I may just get there.

    Wednesday, January 16, 2008

    Celebrity Hijack

    The Giggling One (TM) and I are, it's safe to say, into "reality" game shows in a big way. Big Brother, Survivor, Australian Idol, Poo Love (that one with Mark Philippoussis - sometimes train wrecks are fun), and my favourite of them all: The Amazing Race (we're watching two series of that at the moment).

    But what I want to talk about here is the interesting sideshow to the Big Brother franchise that is Big Brother Celebrity Hijack.

    **Obligatory spoiler warning for week one up to and including the first eviction**

    I was curious. Will it work? Will it be a dud? I should prefix this by saying that I've only ever seen BBUK Series 8, and a little of Series 1 that we are working through courtesy of the lovely Max. Series 8 we absolutely loved. I even went to the trouble of editing together a 30 minute piece featuring housemate Brian's best moments (and that was leaving a fair bit out just to keep it to half an hour). But I digress.

    Celebrity Hijack has been great, mostly. John McCririck, Peaches Geldof & Fifi Brown sucked. The rest of the Hijackers have been good to great.

    Though cringeworthy, Matt Lucas' mission for John in the season opener was classic. In those few bits when I wasn't peeking at the screen with one eye from behind a pillow clutched in my arms like a child's safety blanket, I laughed pretty darn hard.

    Ian Wright brought down the barrier that most seasoned BB veterans are used to by conversing with housemates regardless of where they were in the house rather than only in the Diary Room. He hasn't been the only hijacker to do this, and for whatever reason I don't like it.

    It's a hypocritical sort of view really, because there have been other instances where the normal rules of isolation have been broken this series, and I'm OK with them. The "cameraman" bursting into the house for example. Loved it. Even the pathetically awful hijackers the "Trash Pussies" going into the house in disguise I didn't mind, though their execution completely sucked.

    Onto the housemates themselves. I normally latch on to a favourite or two by the end of week one, as well as a least favourite. The producers have done an outstanding job of bringing in young people who are smart, clever and articulate. Well, except Anfony. It's common knowledge that boxers only have one brain cell.

    I gotta say that Amy is my favourite so far. I've never really understood the sort of concept art that she delights in, but putting that aside she's a cool chick.

    Despite being my namesake, I thought I'd not like Jeremy. He has an air of arrogance but he's also a relatively nice bloke - when he's not playing off the chauvinistic Victor.

    And what an enigmatic (a polite way of saying two-faced) arsehole Victor is. Chauvinistic one second, charming the next. Or is he? It's too hard to tell. He'll say something improper and then follow it up with "only joking". I don't think he is. Talented? Absolutely. Sincere? Hardly.

    I really thought Victor would be the first person evicted. I hoped so too, cos he's my least favourite housemate. However it was Jade's chirpy "look at me, no seriously look at me - I'm so happy all the time" attitude that not only annoyed her housemates but also, obviously, the voters. And come on, is she really a Mensa beauty queen? She looks weirdly like that woman who had all the plastic surgery and ended up looking like a mangled, bloated cat.

    Liam is odd. And apparently a sex beast. Who'da thunk it? And who would have thought anyone would have stranger hair than Matt Corby? Well done on that score Liam my boy.

    That's the end of the thought process for now. I'll wrap this post up by saying that Victor sucks, but that thing he does with Emilia on the roller skates? Fucking awesome. And naughtily erotic.

    Monday, January 14, 2008

    The world of games

    I want to belong to that semi-cool (in my eyes at least) sub-culture that plays board games and card games regularly. I made a New Years resolution to play at least five new board/card games this year. I don't think that's altogether difficult. In fact I think it's quite reasonable.

    The only thing is, very few of my friends are really into that sort of thing, and those that do have neither the time nor inclination. Yes, there's the semi-regular game of Settlers of Catan, but that's hardly new.

    This desire to play games is fuelled by podcasts I've recently subscribed to: The Dice Tower, Boardgame Babylon, and The Spiel. Three podcasts was a bit of overkill though, so I've cut my listening habits (of game podcasts) down to just The Spiel. But even so, I get some sort of jealous pangs every time they mention a game.

    Let me tell you another thing. Hobart sucks in game availabilityness (yes, that is a word - well it is now). There just isn't the market for it. I guess I'm going to have to trawl websites and ebay. Cos that's another thing - if I don't get these games myself and then annoy people until they play, it's going to make it harder.

    Five games is just the start. I want to play lots more, but while there are the abovementioned barriers, along with work, my girlfriend, and computer games (ooh the time sink that is the Orange Box) I kind of get side tracked. Though I am getting a little tired of cake references in the gaming media.

    More on the game quest as it develops.