Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Big Brother 08 - Week 8 Recap

A clever and amusing task twist, along with the eviction of Knobbi were the highlights of Week 8 in the Big Brother house.

  • Beginning with last Sunday, and after the lamest treasure hunt in recorded history, the HMs discovered the $250,000 prize money hiding in the Diary Room chair.
  • In another pointless gimmick, evicted HMs get to pass their share (which begins at $25,000 initially) to the HM of their choice upon eviction. Why? It all ends up with one person anyway. If the prize money were divided between the final 2 HMs, then that would make it interesting.
  • Monday's nominations saw Cherry and Terrence lead the pack with 5 points each. Rory and Alice followed them with 4 points. Knobbi saved Rory from the chop, only to replace him as a nominee along with Malibu and Terri.

    Just while we're on nominations, why is that nominated housemates (and Big Brother for that matter) refer to themselves as being "up for nomination"? All HMs are up for nomination (unless exempted like newly arrived intruders). Once you've been nominated you are then up for eviction. Get it right!

  • The HMs were told their task for the week was to "paddle" a canoe (on wheels) away from a shark before the protective net drops all the way after the shark alarm sounded.
  • Knobbi and Bianca were then told the shark task wasn't real, and to pass this week, the pair had to join the Secret Order of Moon Monks and secretly worship the moon in a ritual at 2 o'clock every morning. Bianca was given a watch to aid with this task.
  • The Moon Monks also had to avoid direct sunlight, so as a cover story, in front of other HMs, Bianca challenged Knobbi not to go out in the sun all week.
    Bianca and Knobbi succeeded with their secret worship on night one, completing their secret handshake and chanting undetected.

    On another side note, the task was great. It had the humour factor, along with the suspense factor making it great viewing.

  • On Tuesday, Knobbi finally relented and bought the hair straightener from the vending machine to shut the women up.
  • Cherry became the third Moon Monk and the second ritual went off undetected.
    Some dirty laundry was aired at Wednesday night dinner, with Rory and Cherry claiming each was the most untrustworthy, and Alice stating she thought Ben was going under the radar.
  • In more spa pashing, Travis was horrified to be on the receiving end of a major snog from Alice.
  • Knowing the shark task was fake, Knobbi embarked on a campaign to sabotage it, much to the annoyance of the other HMs who wanted food next week. Sure Knobbi needed amusement, but he rather recklessly risked his own task by sabotaging the shark task.
  • Alice joined the other three Moon Monks for another successful worshipping session in the early hours of Thursday.
  • Flirting was the go on Thursday as Ben & Bianca, and Cherry & Malibu spent time together. Cherry, however, later told Big Brother he and Malibu had "pulled the pin" on their relationship and were "just friends". Aha.
  • In an evil twist, Big Brother added two new HMs to the Secret Order of the Moon Monks: Terri and Malibu. With 6 HMs in the Order, and only 4 unaware of its existence, things became much trickier for the worshippers' plans. Somehow, they got away with it.
  • In FNL, the HMs participated in Bogan Night Heavy Metal Night. The semi final saw the four remaining HMs in an air guitar competition. The judging was completely arbitrary as Malibu and Travis made it through.
  • Malibu was victorious and as a reward, took Travis, Alice and Terri in to the BB Cinema to see her favourite movie: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.
  • Friday also saw Terrence become the final Moon Monk and despite Big Brother playing the shark siren in the middle of their worshipping, the 7 Monks were not caught, and returned to complete the ceremony successfully, passing the task. Well done to the Moon Monks I say,
  • Malibu continued her nasty attitude towards Terrence and her flirting with Cherry, though she somehow didn't see it as flirting. She really is simple.

    On eviction night, Alice, Terrence and Cherry were removed to one eviction room, while Malibu, Terri and Knobbi were sent to another. We were then shown a graph that displayed one HM as having 66% of the eviction vote. KyJO speculated as to who it could be, which was rather farcical as we all knew it was Knobbi.

    After having earlier removed references from the official website regarding a particular incident of willy exposure in the spa, the speculation from certain other sources (ie. eyeonbigbrother.com) forced KyJO into "discussing" the incident on TV with Knobbi in an obvious attempt to show they had "dealt with it". Rather pathetic really, and even though the incident was later to be discussed with Knobbi on Big Mouth, all Knobbi got was a proverbial and friendly smack on the hand.

    After padding the show out further while certain housemates were saved, it was finally time for Knobbi to get his arse kicked out of the house. Sayonara sunshine.

    For once I wish Gretel were back hosting because she would have torn into Knobbi rather than the Kyle-love and Jackie-lameness that he got. Aargh. The BBUK crowd would have booed him all the way home, which is what he really deserved.
  • Wednesday, June 18, 2008

    Big Brother 08 - Week 7 Recap

    Twas a rather bland week in the Aus BB house to be frank. Not all that much to go the snark about. So, here's the boring recap:

  • After being evicted, Renee's Housemate Hand Grenade was to deprive Malibu of a message from home. Malibu was, once again, a little miffed.
  • The HMs were advised of this week's task: in a blatant cross promotion with Adam Sandler's new movie, they had to play at being hairdressers.
  • Each HM would be both a hairdresser and a hairdressee during the week, styling wigs in particular styles while keeping up constant conversation.
  • The nominees decided on Monday were Knobbi, Terrence and Alice. FNL winner Knobbi saved himself of course, and was replaced by the other two intruders Rhianna and Cherry.
  • Rory's relationship with Rhianna continued through the week, growing from cuddles to kissing to, well, naughty digitally manipulative things involving adult time slots.
  • Knobbi decided to talk gibberish to Terrence in an effort to stop his boring stories. Terrence later cottoned on to this and gave as good as he got.
  • On vending machine day, Knobbi ignored the majority request for a hair straightener and bought Malibu's party dress, a footy and frisbee, and chocolate instead. Some HMs applauded Knobbi for sticking to his earlier commitment not to get the hair straightener. They say it was honourable. I say it was stubbornness.
  • On Day 45, HMs received video messages from home. Except Malibu of course. In protest, Malibu lay in the Diary Room doorway until Big Brother asked her to move.
  • Terrence got upset and cried when his wife didn't appear in his video message. Malibu was not remotely sympathetic when she told him "At least you got one".
  • Cherry declared to all and sundry that he hates Rhianna. Is this a way to get in with the other boys? What a nasty piece of work he is.
  • At FNL, Knobbi won again. *sigh*
  • Knobbi won a viewing of the Adam Sandler movie they'd been plugging all week, and he took Rory, Ben and Travis with him.
  • Knobbi apologised to Cherry for not taking him in to see the movie, causing the girls to think Knobbi was trying to recruit Cherry to his gang.
  • While Knobbi and co were watching the movie, Cherry plotted to oust Knobbi by trying to give him the 4th most votes, meaning he'd be nominated regardless of who is saved.
  • Rhianna later dobbed on Cherry to Rory who told Knobbi the next morning.
  • Cherry and Malibu were given strikes for discussing the nomination of Knobbi. A lovely way for Malibu to start her 21st birthday on Saturday.
  • Malibu's day got better when she had her party (wearing one of Bianca's dresses). All the HMs boarded (read "squeezed into") the Big Brother Airways "Lear Jet" and arrived in Sparkle Land - all pink and bubbly and sparkly.
  • Malibu finally got her message from home with a birthday video message from her family.
  • Malibu was also given Princess Sparkles back as a birthday present from Big Brother. Spoilt brat. I don't see Big Brother giving in to Knobbi and letting him back in the house.
  • Afterwards, the housemates crowded back into the tiny plane only to be informed the return flight would last 6 hours. It's times like this I love Big Brother.

    The Eviction Show was fairly uneventful. We saw that part of the backyard was converted into a dig site, with a treasure chest containing a riddle to the location of the $250,000 prize buried somewhere under the sand.

    After Cherry was saved (I hoped he'd be going) it was Rhianna who got the boot.

    Finally, the housemates were told the prize money was hidden in the house somewhere. But first they had to dig in the backyard to find puzzle pieces which told them where another chest was containing a clue. Only that clue was destroyed by water so Big Brother supplied another one, and in no time flat they found the money in the Diary Room chair.

    How lame a treasure hunt was that? Oh, and also lame - the gimmick that evicted housemates have to choose one of the remaining housemates to give their share of the prize money ($25,000 initially). Erm, it all ends up with one person anyway, so it's rather pointless don't you think?
  • Sunday, June 15, 2008

    The Pillars of the Earth Expansion Set

    After a mini saga getting my hands on The Pillars of the Earth Expansion Set (the online store I ordered it from originally sent me the base game instead of the expansion), it finally arrived earlier this week.

    Last night, we put it to the test.

    This game is, of course, an expansion for The Pillars of the Earth which I blogged about back in March.

    Essentially it increases the maximum number of players from 4 to 6 by adding two sets of pieces and an extra board with more options for worker and master builder placement. In addition, it adds some new privilege, event and craftsmen cards.

    The new craftsmen cards in particular give extra options when deciding what you wish to do. For example, the Brickmaker converts 1 sand into 1 stone, the Apprentice increases the capacity of another craftsman by 1, the Beggar gives you a free resource from the market, and the Day Laborer converts any resource (except metal) into 1 victory point.

    All those new craftsmen I described were taken in the game we played last night, but none by me. I'll get to the session report in a bit.

    Before that though, here's a quick description of the new board. Actually, let's take a look:

    The King's Court extends onto the new board, with the Tax Collector spot available that not only gives a tax exemption but gives you gold equal to the roll of the die. This also means there are only 5 tax exemption places, so with 6 players someone will miss out.

    The Crusades give extra options for workers, earning victory points depending how many workers are placed there. As you'll see in the session recap below, these were instrumental in giving Tim victory in our game.

    The master builder spot in France gives you the "Inspiration in Saint-Denis" card for that round - very handy when someone else takes a craftsman you want, as the card allows you to re-use any craftsman card in play when it comes time to convert your resources into victory points. The capacity of the craftsman you choose to use is reduced by one, but it's still handy.

    For example, in our game last night I took the Saint-Denis card in Round 2. Paul had earlier taken a mason that I had my eye on. The mason could convert 1 stone to 1 victory point up to 3 times. When it came time to use my craftsmen, I utilised Paul's mason to convert 2 of my stone into 2 VPs.

    That leaves two master builder placements on the new board. The first of those is the Coast, which allows you to sell (but not buy) resources at a higher price than the market on the main board.

    The final spot is an extra place in Shiring where you get to take a privilege card.

    The expansion also adds a master builder track on the new board. This is designed to help balance things because only two master builders per player go into the bag during Phase II. Each player's third master builder sits next to the track on the new board, and is placed there as soon as you place your first builder. This means that the player to place his or her first master builder first, places his or her third builder last. Clear?

    OK, so that wasn't the world's greatest desciption of a game, but I really can't be bothered going into too great a detail. Heck, if you're reading this to learn about the game then, well, you really need to learn to use the internet better. :-)

    So, without further ado it's time for the session report from last night's game.

    The Giggling One and I took the game around to Paul & Narelle's house. We were joined there by Tim and Brian.

    Giggles and I have played the game half a dozen times or so, including games with 2, 3 and 4 players. I've won every time. Paul & Narelle have played just once - a 4 player game with us a few weeks ago. Tim and Brian are complete newbies to the game - a fact that served Tim very well as it turned out.

    You see, with no preconceptions about how to play, Tim took a completely different strategy to the rest of us.

    I, on the other hand, played the game exactly like I had the last few times. I employed the stone strategy and totally ignored the gravel pit and forest. I focused on getting stone and then buying/obtaining masons and sculptors to convert them to victory points. I also intended to utilise the Bellmaker if possible.

    And that's where I fell down. With 6 players, it's a lot harder to get hold of the cards you want. Throughout the entire game I stuck stubbornly to my strategy, ignoring opportunities to obtain other craftsmen, and watching other players take the masons and sculptors that I wanted. My back-up plan of obtaining the "Inspiration in Saint-Denis" card so I could use someone else's sculptor fell through as well, because after Round 2, The Giggling One nabbed the card every time.

    Nor could I get metal, for Narelle monopolised the metal placement at the King's Court almost every round.

    So it's a bit of a "poor me" sob story, but it's really my own fault. Yes I missed out on the cards I wanted, but I never adapted to my situation. Basically, I was playing a 4 player game in a 6 player world.

    As I mentioned earlier, Tim had none of this "must get resources" mind-set that the rest of us had. He eschewed taking resource cards, and instead placed his workers in the Crusades at every opportunity he got. He coupled this with master builder placements in the Priory (earning 5 victory points in each of the last two rounds with the added bonus of Prior Philip) to keep his VP income flowing through the game at a rate that the rest of us were unable to match.

    Tim complemented this direct method of obtaining victory points with the Architect (1 VP per round), the Beggar (1 free resource per round) and a Carpenter to convert wood to VPs after taking whatever forest cards were left over in phase I.

    It was a steady stream of VPs for Tim and he pulled away throughout the game, and not even the traditional high scoring 6th round of resource production could catch him. He finished on 53 points, 10 or so ahead of Paul who came second.

    Paul also employed what I thought was a clever strategy. Utilising the Apprentice, Brickmaker and Stonecutter (1 brick to 5 gold once) he focused on obtaining sand from the gravel pit, converting it into stone with his Brickmaker, and then either converting the stone to gold for a tidy profit or using it with his Mason/Sculptor. This was a lucrative combo, especially when he obtained the privilege card "Sally" meaning he could ignore the craftsmen requirements.

    Narelle finished third, courtesy of the Bellmaker. Brian and I tied for fourth, though Brian moved briefly ahead of me in the last round before we realised that his (rather authoritative) claim for 2 points for his "wizard card" was a wee fabrication! Finally, 1 point further back in last place was The Giggling One.

    Overall I enjoyed the game a lot but found it more frustrating than the 4 player game. With only 4 more master builder places on the new board, but 6 more master builders, competition for the spots is high. In fact it was very rare to pass on a master builder placement, regardless of the cost. There were only about half a dozen passes during the game, and most of those were due to a shortage of gold.

    If I've learned anything from the experience, it's that adaptation is your best friend. Next time - and there will most certainly be a next time - I'll be looking at the game with more experienced, yet fresher eyes.

    Thursday, June 12, 2008

    BBUK Musings

    Six or so days in and I and The Giggling One are loving Big Brother UK as usual. The wedding task was a corker - setting housemates against each other right from the start.

    But it's one particular HM I wanted to blog about very quickly.


    I had to leave her in a paragraph all to herself just in case she attacks the rest of this post.

    Admittedly, I've only seen the last series (8) of BBUK as well as part of the very first one, but Alexandra has to be the most aggressive, nasty, rude, sour person I've seen.

    She dishes out criticism wherever she thinks it's warranted (and she believes it's warranted just about everywhere) but can't take it when the target of her attacks tries to defend themselves, or worse attack her back.

    Take the chip incident a couple of nights ago. To her credit, Rebecca had a crack at helping with dinner by cooking the chips. She didn't do a very good job, but most HMs ate them without comment.

    Not Alexandra. She commented to Sylvia about how Rex should do all the cooking from then on (he's a chef) and continued her tirade against the cooking. Alexandra went on the attack again after dinner, and when Becs tried to defend herself Alex just shouted her down.

    Then, when Rachael and Stephanie try to defend Becs as well, Alexandra just shifted her attacks to them and took them down as well.

    If you even dare to have a go at Alexandra, she'll launch another verbal assault, and when she runs out of new things to say she'll repeat herself again before finishing off with personal insults. And then she'll tell you to remember she said so.

    Alexandra is this year's Charlie, but even worse if that's possible. Given the reaction of the eviction crowds to Charlie last year, I fully expect to hear chants of "Get Alex out!" on Friday nights.

    Edit: Yep I was right. During the first eviction, the chants of "Get Alex out!" were so overwhelming that Davina had to go into the studio to talk to the house lest they be influenced by the chanting.

    Monday, June 9, 2008

    Big Brother 08 - Week 6 Recap

    Yes! It's official! Finally, the view I've maintained all along has become the majority view of BB viewers everywhere. Knobbi is indeed a nasty, slimy, lying piece of filth.

    I'm just surprised it's taken some people this long to realise it.

    He has been, of course, aided by the selective editing of the BB producers who have, until now, protected Knobbi and his bullying ways.

    No longer however. Knobbi's bullying of Travis has finally been confronted and placed front and centre for all to cringe at.

    Before I rant further, let's take a moment to go back through the week.

  • The first of the old-style nominations took place on Day 36, with Alice, Malibu and Bianca as the inaugural nominees.
  • Dixie's Housemate Hand Grenade saved Alice for the 3rd time this series, though Alice didn't find out until eviction night.
  • Replacing Alice as nominees were Terri and Renee.
  • Not surprisingly, the intruders were a hot topic of conversation, with the other men distancing themselves from Cherry in an obvious power play.
  • The weekly task was to ignore the obvious. Big Brother organised some rather amusing events that the HMs found a little too hard to ignore. Ben discovered a children's car ride in place of the Diary Room chair, Malibu sat on Santa's lap, while Terrence plonked himself down on a pavlova.
  • Knobbi completely failed to ignore a marching band that entered the garden as he and Ben became the major culprits in failing the task.
  • Bianca saw her brother and his girlfriend on the plasma, and couldn't ignore that either.
  • On the morning of Day 37 (Tuesday), the HMs woke to find the house filled with suds.
  • Bianca and Renee were still not talking after their clash on Sunday night, and Renee had even more reason to be frustrated when Bianca crashed the "boys' day" in the kitchen.
  • Ollie was replaced by a toy dog for the ignore the obvious task, leading to more window washing for Knobbi after he was punished for animal cruelty when he bounced a ball on the toy's head.
  • Terri started to teach Malibu how to knit. She'll make a nanna out of Malibu yet.
  • Bianca swiped $2,000 worth of "free cash" that BB left in the kitchen, rationalising that the house had already lost the task so she might as well take it. BB made her give it back.
  • Knobbi reprimanded Travis for talking to Alice about the lies the men spun about Alice hating Travis. In an effort to further assert his dominance, Knobbi threatened not to be Travis' friend anymore because of his so-called betrayal.
  • Cherry told BB he wanted to tap Malibu like a horse. I'm surprised he's not fitting in with Knobbi and friends with an attitude like that.
  • In a truth or dare game in the spa on Day 39, the Knobbi/Travis/Alice situation finally came to a head. Knobbi set things in motion, and had he known the fallout he may not have made the same decision again, because the person who is going to lose the most from this is Knobbi himself.
  • After asking Travis who his least favourite original housemate was, Knobbi and Rory encouraged Travis to say Alice, much to Knobbi's joy.
  • Alice cried, Travis cried, and Knobbi lied.
  • Alice justifiably chastised Knobbi for ridiculing Travis.
  • Travis finally realised he'd been used by the kombi boys and had been set up. Finally Travis, finally!
  • On the following day, Friday, Knobbi was called to the Diary Room twice. The first time was to explain himself. Knobbi said he felt no remorse. The second time, Big Brother laid down the law (why it took this long I will never know) and reprimanded Knobbi for the ridiculous haircut he gave Travis, the shower gel incident, and the spa incident. Knobbi was told to stop picking on Travis.
  • Friday Night Live was Superhero Night. Unfortunately, Knobbi the Super Tosser won after defeating Bianca in the final. This means he can save himself if he is nominated next week, and he probably will be. Our only hope is that he comes fourth in the nominations, and will thus be up regardless after he saves someone else.
  • Knobbi won a trip on BB airlines as part of his FNL prize, and he chose Rory, Ben and Bianca to go with him.
  • After a nine hour flight, the four travellers arrived at the City Dump, and of course Knobbi lamented his poor fortune once again. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.
  • Ollie returned to the house for one last goodbye.
  • In no shock to anyone, the HMs were told they had failed the ignore the obvious task.

    The eviction show then rolled around on Sunday night, with Mike Goldman standing in for Kyle once again.

    We saw the return of on stage interviews with the "loved ones" now that the posiible evictees are known prior to eviction night, and I for one am happy. I enjoy seeing the family and friends of the HMs on eviction nights, especially when they are reunited, though we didn't see this on Sunday.

    After informing Alice she was safe, and Terri and Renee they were nominated, it came time for the decision. Terri was told she was saved first, and then Malibu. It came down to Bianca and Renee.

    As predicted last week, Renee did indeed fall from the lofty heights of favourite to win the series, to evictee. Had she not had the argument with Bianca, she would almost certainly still be in the house. Bianca, for her part, ws stunned that she was still there. I can't see her lasting too much longer, but she does have the nomination buffer of the intruders, along with Knobbi who should in all reasonableness be evicted before her.
  • Saturday, June 7, 2008

    Liar's Dice

    Some people are big fans of bluffing games. I'm not. Perhaps it's because I suck at bluffing. I think it's also because I feel uncomfortable doing so.

    Bluffing isn't, however, a major component of Liar's Dice. Sure the name implies a certain amount of fibbing will go on during the game, but by and large it's about calculating the odds and playing accordingly.

    Liar's Dice is a guessing game at heart, and it reminds me of Spoof, a game that my father used to love playing with the family on long train trips or to pass the time at a restaurant while we waited for our meals to be served.

    The particular variant of Liar's Dice we played last night involved all players (there were five of us) starting with five six-sided dice each. Each die was a standard die except instead of a "6" there was a star which acted as a wild.

    The game goes like this:

    Each player has a little bowl-like container which is shuffled madly too and fro in order to shake the dice up and randomise their results. Everyone then secretly looks at the results on their own dice before bidding commences.

    Each time a player bids, they are making a guess as to the minimum number of times a particular result appears on all the dice in play. Generally, you'll look at your own dice and see what you have the most of and bid that.

    You can make a reasonable guess based on the number of dice in play as to the probability of the number of times a particular result appears. For example, if I see three 4's when I look at my own dice, and I know that the other players have twenty dice between them, probability would suggest there are around three or four other 4's under other people's bowls.

    [I'll just say here that I'm attempting to avoid confusion by writing dice results as the the actual number (eg "4) while writing the amount of dice as the number spelled out in full (eg "four"). I'm never really sure what the correct conventions are for writing numbers, but usually I'm just lazy and will write "20" instead of "twenty". Besides, I think it's easier to read numbers as digits rather than words. I'm pretty sure the format I've used in previous blog posts has been wildly inconsistent, but hey, it's not like I'm writing for a major publication. Anyway, I digress.]

    Player 1 ["One"??] makes a bid and then the player to his or her left decides whether to make a higher bid, or call the first player out.

    If a following player chooses to make a bid themselves, it must be for either a higher amount of dice, or the same amount of dice but a higher result. For example, a call of "three 4's" can be beaten by "four 1's" or by "three 5's".

    Oh, that reminds me, I nearly forgot about the stars. Wilds are counted towards the result of the number called, so if the final bid called is "eight 2's" then everyone reveals their dice and all the 2's and all the stars are added together to see if the bid was successful.

    So, when calculating the odds you need to take stars into account as well.

    It's also possible to put in a bid just for stars. Stars are a little different in that (and I think I'm recalling this correctly) a bid of "two stars" falls between "four 5's" and "five 1's"; and "three stars" comes between "six 5's" and "seven 1's" etc. The reason for this is that you only count stars when the bid is for stars, whereas when you bid a number, you count that number plus all the stars.

    Bidding continues around the table until someone decides that they are either unwilling to bid higher, or they think the previous player has bid too much. All dice are then revealed and the bid is counted.

    If the amount of dice displaying the number that was bid, plus the number of stars is higher than the bid, then the bidder wins. The person who called them out must lose dice equal to the difference between the actual amount of dice and the amount of the bid.

    For example, if a player bids "eight 2's", and the next player calls them, and when all players reveal their dice all the 2's and stars are added up to reveal there are actually ten dice that show a 2 or a star, then the player that called the bidder out loses two of his or her own dice.

    The bidder is also successful if his or her bid is spot on. In this case every other player loses one die, not just the player who called the bidder out.

    Finally you have the situation where a player is called out and he or she has overbid the actual number of dice with the particular result. In this case it is the player who made the bid that loses dice equal to the difference between his or her bid and the actual number of dice with that result.

    Once the loss of dice is resolved, all players re-cover their dice, shuffle their bowls about, and the bidding starts again with the player to the left of the final bidder on the last turn (that is, the player who called the bidder out) regardless of whether the bid was successful or not.

    Play continues until all but one player is out of dice. That player is the winner.

    The bluffing portion of the game really kicks in when the number of dice in play dwindles and players try to con other players into believing they have particular numbers showing when they don't. If you sound confident enough, the next player may not call you out, and thus you won't lose dice if your bid fails.

    Like most games at HoGS nights, I only played this once (finishing second of five) and I'd like to play it again some time to really explore the strategy of bidding and bluffing.

    Again, this is a nice diversion if want to play a relatively fast game or don't feel like getting into anything too taxing. It's enjoyable, especially bantering with the other players as you try to hang on to all of your dice.


    To kick off HoGS night for June, I joined two others for a quick game of cards. The game we played was Knaves.

    I've never played Knaves before, but as it's a game played with regular playing cards, like Casino I'm not adding it to my list of new games played this year.

    It's quite a clever little trick taking game because it's not just about capturing as many tricks as possible. Tricks are good, but if you capture a Knave (Jack) you lose points.

    It's a 3 player game where 51 of the 52 cards are dealt evenly between the players (that's...erm..17 cards each). The final card is turned face up to determine which suit is trumps for that hand. You can't, however, have the same trump suit for two hands running so if card 52 is the same suit as the last hand then there are no trumps this time round.

    There is a lot of strategy involved, and as all the cards will be played (except one, but you know what that card is) it is a definite advantage if you can keep track of what suits have been played.

    Just for the record, I suck at card counting. I can generally strategise based on how many cards each player has remaining and how many cards of a particular suit I have, but I got into trouble a few times by leading a suit I shouldn't have later in the game.

    So here you are trying to win tricks. The game is played just like all the other trick taking games. All players must follow suit, and if they do not have a card of the suit led they may play a trump to try and win the trick, or throw out another card.

    The twist, as I mentioned earlier is with the Jacks. All the jacks are bad, but some are badder than others. It's sort of like the game Hearts, in that if you win a trick containing a Jack then you lose points.

    J♥ will lose you 4 points, J♦ will lose you 3 points, J♣ will lose you 2 points, and (you may be able to follow the pattern here) J♠ will lose you 1 point (I could have typed out the name of each card in full, and it would have been quicker, but I just wanted to be all funky and use the suit symbols).

    Given that there are 17 tricks to be won each hand, and a total of 10 negative points, it means that each hand there will be a net 7 points shared between the players. The first player to reach 21 points is the winner.

    Obviously, you really don't want to collect Jacks, especially J♥. There's no bonus for collecting all the Jacks.

    The safest option is usually to lead with a 10. The general pattern here is that the second player will usually play a lower card in case the third player has the Jack of that suit. This means that the third player is free to win the trick with a Queen, King or Ace.

    Of course, it doesn't always pan out that way, but in the early game most tricks are won by the player going third.

    Something you want to avoid is being stuck with a face card as your only remaining card of a suit, and having to play it and let the final player throw the Jack at you. High cards can be good, but when to hold on to them and when to play them is the key to the game.

    It is sometimes a good strategy to throw away a high card of one suit when another suit is led, just so that later on you don't get stuck winning a trick that contains a Jack.

    Possibly the suckiest thing is to be dealt the Jack of trumps. The only time it's not going to win is where the Queen, King or Ace of trumps are played in the same trick. It gets even worse if card 52 (the card that decides trumps) is a Queen, King or Ace as there are even fewer chances to successfully dump that Jack on someone else. If that happens, just hope trumps are Spades.

    I managed to hold my own in the game we played, taking an early lead, but I made some poor decisions and got stuck with too many high cards in the later part of the game and ended up finishing second.

    It's not a game I'd play much as there are other card games I enjoy more, but it was nice as a filler while we waited to play something more meaty.

    Wednesday, June 4, 2008

    Big Brother 08 - Week 5 Recap

    Week 5 in the Big Brother house started with a bang as two Housemate Hand Grenades were lobbed into the house.

    Nathan made Travis the early bird, meaning Travis had to rise first every morning and make BB breakfast.

    At the other end of the day, David's grenade fell on Bianca who became nightwatchman (nightwatchwoman?). She has to take BB a glass of milk and a snack every night, ask him how his day was, and tell him a story if he wants one.

    On with the highlights of one dog of a week:

  • Early on Monday morning (Day 29), the HMs were woken by the sound of barking dogs. They were told this week's task involved them each staying in their own dog house for as long as possible.
  • Nobbi didn't even try the task. Party pooper.
  • Rory was disqualified and then he and Nobbi began terrorising the other HMs by spraying the hose on them, among other things.
  • It was an amusing task though, and one that the BBUK house did a few years ago with surprising success.
  • Ultimately, after 11½ hours, Ben quit the task making Alice the winner.
  • Alice then met her reward, a Seeing Eye puppy she had to care for and train. After checking his mouth like any good vet, Alice named him Ollie.
  • Bianca had her first, but by no means loudest, fight of the week when Malibu told Bianca she had a split personality.
  • Ollie became the first dog to push the Diary Room button (This was a caption during the Daily Show. I have to say I do, mostly, like the funny captions the producers add during the shows).
  • Rory poured cordial on the floor and told Terri it was dog pee she had to clean up.
  • Dixie threatened to leave because she was sick of washing.
  • BB called all the HMs to the Diary Room and told them that had BB been imposing fines for breaking HM guidelines, they would have amassed $82,000. They are told the fines would count from now on.
  • We finally got to see the vending machine the HoH has been selecting goodies from each week. Alice declined to choose Malibu's shoes and instead chose Ben's personal photos as well as the obligatory chocolate.
  • Nobbi gave Travis the world's worst haircut. And Travis liked it!! What is wrong with that boy?
  • Ollie became house counsellor.
  • On Day 31, Knobbi got his "K" back by reverting to his nasty ways and telling Travis he has no sex appeal.
  • The hypnotism special aired between the Day 31 and Day 32 Daily Shows but (without being nasty - and oh I am so tempted) that type of television doesn't appeal to me so I didn't bother watching it.
  • On Day 32, Lords of the Manor Knobbi and Rory pontificated about yet another HM: Alice.
  • Ollie is very cute.
  • As punishment for his filthy mouth, Knobbi had to clean all the windows in the backyard. In pouring rain.
  • The kombi sprang multiple leaks, forcing Knobbi to evacuate and finally spend a night inside the house, though not in the bed with the others but on the floor between the doors and the shutter. BB is so evil to Knobbi. It's fantastic because Knobbi deserves every bit of it.
  • Bullying in the BB house reached new heights on Friday when Ben, Knobbi and Rory teamed up to mislead Travis into thinking Alice hated him. Then, to add injury to insult, they later burst in on Travis while he was on the toilet and sprayed him with shower gel. Seeing this bullying go on unpunished is incredibly frustrating, especially given the rumours that it might have been shower cleaner, not shower gel.
  • Some of the "shower gel" got into Travis' eye, and he later left the house during Friday Night Live.
  • On the subject of FNL, the theme for this week was A Day at the Races. After watching a boring race on TV, the HMs played soccer while wearing binoculars the wrong way round. Amusement was had by all.
  • Renee was declared champion after weighing herself down with as many clothes as possible, and she took Dixie to the strategy room.
  • BB updated the HMs on Travis' condition and told them he was being treated at a medical facility.
  • Ben cried with remorse over what he had done to Travis. Sympathy for Ben? Only from those morons Knobbi and Rory. Pathetic weasels all of them.
  • Rory and Alice had a joint birthday party involving another pash-fest in the spa.
  • Alice and Ollie passed their dog task, allowing Ollie to stay on indefinitely.
  • Knobbi set out to prove he really was top dog by pranking Rory by putting pegs on Rory's hair while he was sleeping.

    Finally we reached Eviction Show #4. Mike Goldman hosted with Jackie O in place of Kyle who apparently was unwell, though speculation was rife that Kyle's commitments to Idol auditions on the same weekend were really what was keeping him away.

    I've heard and read a number of sources saying that Mike Goldman should replace Kyle permanently. I disagree. Kyle may not be everyone's favourite, but his acerbic wit on the eviction shows is just what the show needs to pep it up.

    During the eviction show we were introduced to the three intruders entering the house.

    Rhianna (25) is a single mum (she has a 6 year old daughter); Cherry (his real name apparently) is a 22 year old student/surfer; while 51 year old Terrence is a loud, brash auctioneer.

    On to the eviction voting. The bottom 3 HMs this week were Dixie, Bianca and Alice. Renee saved Alice, and her seat was taken by Knobbi. Oh please let Knobbi be evicted came the cry from The Giggling One and me! Alas, it was not to be. The voting turned out like this:

    Alice 21
    Travis2 1
    Renee 24
    Bianca2 1

    Yes, we have another kamikaze. Just like Rebecca two weeks ago, Dixie voted for herself and was evicted. I guess it goes to show how great a place to be the house is this year.

    Rhianna, Cherry and Terrence then entered the house. Knobbi, semmingly insecure about his position in charge of the house, called a meeting of his homies Ben and Rory, and reassured them they were still his boys. It never ceases to amuse me how predictable the HM's reactions to intruders are year after year.

    The big event of the night was not the entry of the intruders, though. Instead, it was the rowdy heated argument between Bianca, Renee and Alice. Bianca, ever sensitive about her boobs, had a yell-fest with the other two girls - particularly Renee - after they suggested she get a breast reduction.

    The argument spilled out from the kombi to the backyard where Bianca and Renee had to be held back from each other.

    Ultimately, Renee came away from the argument as the loser. Not only did she pick up a second strike from Big Brother (she had earlier been given a strike (along with Ben, Knobbi and Rory) for discussing nominations) but she has plummeted from favourite to win the series to favourite to be evicted next weekend. Her uncouth behaviour and unwarranted attack on Bianca may well see her leave sooner than anyone thought.

    While we're on the subject of evictions, the producers have decided to return to the old ways and give the ultimate power of eviction back to the people. Starting from this week, the HMs will nominate and the public will evict.

    One can speculate why they changed the format. Perhaps the public have got over the novelty of the new voting system and just aren't voting in the numbers they were before, thus reducing the money it pulls in. Alternatively, and more cynically, the current system isn't kicking out the housemates the producers wish to leave the house. I'm not sold on the latter view. I think the former is more likely.

    But I won't care soon. Only one more day before BBUK starts. Can't wait!
  • How disappointment!

    Awaiting me when I arrived home tonight was a box from FRP Games.

    Woohoo! The Pillars of the Earth Expansion had arrived!

    Eagerly opening the box I discovered that waiting under the fluffy white stuff inside was not, in fact, The Pillars of the Earth Expansion, but The Pillars of the Earth.

    Yes, they sent me the original game instead of the expansion. Nice, but wrong. And I already have the original game.

    I've sent a nice email (well, nice-ish and peppered liberally with exclamation marks) to FRP Games and asked if they would kindly send me the expansion as I had ordered (I doubled checked and yes, I did order the expansion).

    So all that excitement for an anti-climactic ending. Let's hope they rectify the situation quickly.