Stone of Remembrance

June 22, 2007

Top Ten Things I Hate About Star Trek

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 19:28

Note: This came from my buddy and Masonic brother Ross, and though I think he got it from elsewhere, it actually sounds a lot like him. Enjoy.

10. Noisy doors.

You can’t walk three feet in a starship without some door whooshing or screeching at you. My office building has automatic sliding doors. They’re dead silent. If those doors went “wheet!” every time a person walked through them, about once a month some guy in accounting would snap and go on a shooting rampage. Sorry Scotty, the IEEE has revoked your membership until you learn to master WD-40.


“I dinnae think I can lubricate it for ye, Cap’n. The engines can’t take it.”

9. The Federation.

This organization creeps me out. A planet-wide government that runs everything, and that has abolished money. A veritable planetary DMV. Oh sure, it looks like a cool place when you’re rocketing around in a Federation Starship, but I wonder how the guy driving a Federation dump truck feels about it?

And everyone has to wear those spandex uniforms. Here’s an important fact: Most people, you don’t want to see them in spandex. You’d pay good money to not have to see them. If money hadn’t been abolished, that is. So you’re screwed.

8. Reversing the Polarity.

For cripes sake Giordi, stop reversing the polarity of everything! It might work once in a while, but usually it just screws things up. I have it on good authority that the technicians at Starbase 12 HATE that. Every time the Enterprise comes in for its 10,000 hour checkup, they’ve gotta go through the whole damned ship fixing stuff. “What happened to the toilet in Stateroom 3?” “Well, the plumbing backed up, and Giordi thought he could fix it by reversing the polarity.”

Between Scotty’s poor lubrication habits and Geordi’s damned polarity reversing trick, it’s a wonder the Enterprise doesn’t just spontaneously explode whenever they put the juice to it.

7. Seatbelts.

Yeah, I know this one is overdone, but you’d think that the first time an explosion caused the guy at the nav station to fly over the captain’s head with a good 8 feet of clearance, someone would say, “You know, we might think of inventing some furutistic restraining device to prevent that from happening.” So of course, they did make something like that for the second Enterprise (the first one blew up due to poor lubrication), but what was it? A hard plastic thing that’s locked over your thighs. Oh, I’ll bet THAT feels good in the corners. “Hey look! The leg-bars worked as advertised! There goes Kirk’s torso!”

6. No fuses.

Every time there’s a power surge on the Enterprise the various stations and consoles explode in a shower of sparks and throw their seatbelt-less operators over Picard’s head. If we could get Giordi to stop reversing the polarity for a minute, we could get him to go shopping at the nearest Starship parts store and pick up a few fuses. And while he’s shopping, he could stop at an intergalactic IKEA and pick up a few chairs for the bridge personnel. If you’re going to put me in front of a fuseless exploding console all day, the least you could do is let me sit down.

5. Rule by committee.

Here’s the difference between Star Trek and the best SF show on TV last year:

Star Trek:

Picard: “Arm photon torpedoes!”
Riker: “Captain! Are you sure that’s wise?”
Troi: “Captain! I’m picking up conflicting feelings about this! And, it appears that you’re a ‘fraidy cat.”
Wesley: “Captain, I’m just an annoying punk, but I thought I should say something.”
Worf: “Captain, can I push the button? This is giving me a big Klingon warrior chubby.”
Giordi: “Captain, I think we should reverse the polarity on them first.”
Picard: “I’m so confused. I’m going to go to my stateroom and look pensive.”


Pensive.

Firefly:

Captain: “Let’s shoot them.”
Crewman: “Are you sure that’s wise?”
Captain: “Do you know what the chain of command is? It’s the chain I’ll BEAT YOU WITH until you realize who’s in command.”
Crewman: “Aye Aye, sir!”

4. A Star Trek quiz:

Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and ‘Ensign Expendable’ beam down to a planet.
Which one isn’t coming back?

3. Technobabble.

The other night, I couldn’t get my car to start. I solved the problem by reversing the polarity of the car battery, and routing the power through my satellite dish. The resulting subspace plasma caused a rift in the space-time continuum, which created a quantum tunnelling effect that charged the protons in the engine core, thus starting my car. Child’s play, really. As a happy side-effect, I also now get the Spice Channel for free.

2. The Holodeck.

I mean, it’s cool and all. But do you really believe that people would use it to re-create Sherlock Holmes mysteries and old-west saloons? Come on, we all know what the holodeck would be used for. And we also know what the worst job on the Enterprise would be: Having to squeegie the holodeck clean.


“No, really. We’re just good friends.”

1. The Prime Directive.

How stupid is this? Remember when Marvin the Martian was going to blow up the Earth, because it obstructed his view of Venus? And how Bugs Bunny stopped him by stealing the Illudium Q36 Space Modulator? Well, in the Star Trek universe, Bugs would be doing time. Probably in a room filled with Roseanne lookalikes wearing spandex uniforms, walking through doors going WHEET! all day. It would be hell. At least until the Kaboom. The Earth-shattering Kaboom.


That’s All, Doc.

June 10, 2007

Winnowing the Game Collection: Round 1

Filed under: Games — admin @ 22:54

We’ve been accumulating games for as long as we’ve been married. One the first day I met my wife-to-be, we played a game on the train, and then four hours of cribbage (one of the many ways in which I knew that she was the one for me.)

Like every collection, we’ve acquired all kinds of games, but some of them never get played: they just occupy space on the shelf. Thus, it has come to pass that we must winnow down the games we don’t regularly bring to the table. This will happen in rounds, with a few of each group staying on. I’m not sure what will happen to the others, though I expect that they may go to a prize table, a math trade or a pre-Unity Games sale to another gamer.

Here are the games in Round 1. Please keep your brickbats: none of these games is wretched; they just haven’t been favorites, and may never be. I think I’ve abandoned the need to have the definitive game collection in favor of one containing games we actually play.

Update 30 April – Added another game to the list for this round.

Update 10 June:

Round 1 is complete. After a suitable examination, Tikal, Space Beans and Hacienda get to stay on the shelf. Java, Mexica, Manhattan and Volldampf are headed for trade or sale, and Merchants of Amsterdam is “on the bubble”.

Round 1 Games

Each game has a link to its entry on the Geek.

Tikal

A 1999 game by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling, Tikal won the Spiel des Jahres in 1999 and has been a long time staple on Eurogamer tables. It’s a game based on Action Points: you have a certain amount of stuff you can do in a turn, with some moves costing more than others. There are some folks who have this game worked out down to a science: fortunately, I don’t usually play games with them.

It’s the first of the so-called Mask Trilogy games, all three of which are in this round.

Update 17 April – played tonight. It was enjoyed by all, including A., who I didn’t think would like it.
VERDICT: it stays.

Java

Java appeared in 2000 and was a very popular subject of discussion, particularly among Tikal players. It had wonderful pieces: the tiles were chunky and thick, because in this game you could change the landscape by stacking tiles upon each other. As with Tikal, it was driven by Action Points; but unlike Tikal, there were a number of extra mechanics, such as the festivals, that often seemed to grind the game to an analysis-paralysis dead stop. The final turn scoring was also a common complaint, though that’s not the only game where the first person to bring about the end of the game gets some benefit.

Update 25 April – played with L. tonight. Wasn’t a game that even interested A., even though she liked Tikal. Too much stuff: palaces, cards, and the extra-action disks (”I can turn my volume up to 11, er, 7.”) Did not go over well, and it has a reputation as a game with too many choices that grinds to a halt.
VERDICT: It leaves.

Mexica

The third “mask” game appeared in 2002. This time the game involved surrounding areas of the board with water and constructing buildings. Of the three, this is the one I’ve played the least – it was given to me by a friend who was moving. It’s apparently being considered for WBC this year, so there’s a group of people who obviously like it.

Update 10 June – after a long delay, we finally had a chance to play this one. While it was clever, we didn’t find it compelling.
VERDICT: it leaves.

Manhattan

Andreas Seyfarth’s 1994 SdJ winner is a tactical placement game in which players use cards to put floors on skyscrapers. It’s considered a classic – it makes it onto lots of “Top 100″ lists, and has the virtue of simplicity and brevity. We’ve had this one on the shelf for almost as long as we’ve been buying Eurogames. The problem is that it’s been on the shelf.

Update 22 April – played tonight. Both A. and L. enjoyed the game, but L. and I both felt that it left a little to be desired. A. enjoyed it (and won, though Mom and Dad helped out a little with placements.)
VERDICT: it probably goes, though it was better than I remembered. Apparently it has been reprieved for a second play, but I’d not expect to call for it myself.

Volldampf

This game is a 2001 design by Martin Wallace, and is something of a forerunner to Age of Steam, the more-or-less definitive bare knuckles railroad game. Like its more well-known successor, the mechanic of moving colored cubes along rail links is employed; unlike it, the game is fairly short and is more forgiving – it doesn’t need to be analyzed down to the last move in order for a player to be successful. This hasn’t come out in a while, but might be a candidate to stay if only because it’s not Age of Steam.

Update 25 April – L. and I played it two-player, which changes the rules a little bit; auctions are secret rather than once-around or multiple rounds. She decided that it was nasty enough to try again.
Update 29 April – after a second play, we decided that it just wouldn’t come out often enough. I’d like us to play Age of Steam or “Happy Care Bears Sharing Age of Steam” – Railroad Tycoon – in its place, and L. likes to play it.
VERDICT: It goes.


Care Bears Age of Steam wins out.

Merchants of Amsterdam

A design from Reiner Knizia from 2000. There were a number of interesting aspects to this game. The player who was first in order drew three cards from the deck, choosing one to keep, one to discard and one to auction; the flow of the game was determined by time cards, making some games shorter and others longer (and causing much of one’s gains early to be wiped out by historical events late); and, of course, the auctions were governed by the wonderful (and easily breakable) auction clock.


That cool clock

But while it’s a Knizia, it just doesn’t get called for much. But the clock is cool.

Update 15 May – L. and A. and I played it tonight. It was more bloodless with three players and went quickly. A. went against every expected strategy – there are bonuses for concentration and for distribution, like every Knizia game – and fell just short of L. The guy who’s played the game, and taught it, finished far behind.

As for the cool clock, it’s very fragile. Ours functions, but badly. We played without, and had a nice close game.

VERDICT: It gets a second play.

Hacienda

This game is a 2005 Wolfgang Kramer design involving the placement of animal tokens out on the Pampas. I first played it at a Unity Games event and quite enjoyed it, then bought it in a subsequent game order . . . and haven’t played it since. It either deserves more attention or to be shown the door.

Update 30 April – played tonight with L. She decided that the young’un might like the animal theme and the Through the Desert–like connections.
VERDICT: It’s gotten a couple of plays. It stays.

SpaceBeans Added 30 April

This is an offshoot of the Bohnanza franchise, though it has nothing other than Bohnfaszinierung to connect it with Rosenberg’s more popular creations. It involves collections of beans of various colors that mimic famous science-fiction characters, and has some strange mechanics. For some reason, it’s sat on the shelf for a long time and has never gotten played.

Update 30 April – played tonight with L. and A. It was amusing, and certainly deserves a second try. You pass cards to the right, but play passes to the left. We have friends whose heads we’d like to see explode playing this one.
Update 10 June – L. and I play this one two-player by preference. It’s actually clever and different enough to warrant being kept.

VERDICT: It stays.

Summary

That’s the first round. I’ll post results when we’ve finished taking these for a spin.

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