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"OMG Pandora's Box (the card) is evil!!!! :-) :-) :-) I played a game of Fluxx with a friend last night, and it went on for over 90 minutes!! One game!! We used Pandora's box about 5 or 6 times during the game, between it first coming into play, a couple of 'Let's do that again's, and a few reshuffles of the deck. It was ultimately a Pandora's box play that ended the game, forcing a 'Play All' where I had to play a goal for which he already had the Keepers on the table. I love it! And I love my boxxes, too. :-) Just thought I'd give my opinion. The rest of you guys *have* to get these things. :-D" --Jen Breland, on the Rabbits mailing list

Thursday, October 13th 2005
by the Writer's Guild of Wunderland

What's New?

Super Duper Homeworlds Fun!

I've been having a great time lately, playing Homeworlds online at Super Duper Games.

I just got into it last week, and I've become instantly addicted to it. Already I've finished up 10 games! It's great! I'm finally just about getting enough Homeworlds, since I can now be in lots of games at once (with people from anywhere in the world!) and whenever I go back to my desk, it's my turn somewhere!

I'm doing pretty well, too: Thus far, I've only lost once! (Good game, Jesse!)

Super Duper Games is an online gaming website, featuring numerous different games, with a really nice system for keeping track of which games you're in, and when it's your turn and stuff. Most of the games they have are new ones you've never heard of, but several are Icehouse Games, including Pikemen (featured in Playing with Pyramids), Branches & Twigs & Thorns (featured in Hypothermia #15), Sprawl (Winner of IceGameDesign contest #1), and Blam! (runner-up of Contest #3). All of those are very cool, of course, but it wasn't until I heard they'd implemented Homeworlds, that I myself got into it. (But now that I have, I can't stop playing!)

It really is a nice system. As shown here, the graphics are quite basic, but they do the job just fine and their simplicity gives the system universal compatibility. (It works great on our Macintoshes, unlike a new computerized version of Fluxx I've been hearing about.) The ever-changing gameboard is nicely handled with an extendible series of square patches of space, with each player's map of the galaxy shown from their point of view, i.e. with your ships pointing up and away from you, as is proper.

But what's really neat is the way you issue your orders. Since a turn in Homeworlds can often consist of a series of cascading actions, you type all the details of your move into a text box and hit "submit orders" only when you're really ready. It's like programming! You write a little block of code, and if you make a syntax error, your whole set of orders, i.e. your program, will be rejected by the system until you submit bug free code.

The implementation of the rules is perfect, too! That said, there was one little problem I discovered early on... there was a small bug in the system's handling of a strategy we call "Cashing in an Investment," but actually, this wasn't a problem with the software, it as a misunderstanding on the part of the programmers, who didn't know the action of said strategy was even possible. But I'm very pleased to say that Super-Duper Aaron was able to update the system to allow me to perform the Investment Cash-In, without any restart or delay in the game I was in, that very evening! Awesome!

Of course, as with all online-gaming, I do miss the reality of the experience. You don't get the fun of handling those lovely little pyramids, to say nothing of the facelessness of the world of computerized gaming. But there are advantages, too, of course... the pieces never get messed up! More to the point, it's allowing Homeworlds fans to find each other for a game no matter where they are physically, which is letting a whole lot of people get into the game who haven't been able to before. And playing online is great practice for those face-to-face events... maybe for the annual tournament at Origins next year, I'll be competing against people I've previously played only via computer!

Also, I'm enjoying the extra fun you get in naming the star systems. There's no point in assigning names to star systems when playing on the tabletop, but on the computer, it's a must. Whenever you discover a new system, you give it a name. This means one needs a steady supply of system names!

Different players obviously have different naming conventions they use when choosing names... sometimes people use real star names, other times they just use names they find amusing or meaningful. But it adds a fun little dimension to things... for example, I was able to discover who one of my opponents is from the clues I was getting by the system names he was choosing. (And you're playing an excellent game, too, Rob! I'm worried I'm going to lose!)

For myself, I'm developing a naming convention that I'm using from one game to the next, so that I can expect certain systems to be certain colors because of their size. For example, I'm naming big blue stars IBM, since the company has the nickname Big Blue. I name little yellow systems Different. (Remember those ads for that painkiller? "Little. Yellow. Different.") I name large green systems Paradise or Garden, just 'cause they're big and lush, and I've been naming large Yellows after Clampett, in honor of the famous millionaire hillbillies. (Why? The large Yellow system is the real-estate you invest in early in the game to become rich with later, by using the aforementioned Investment Cash-in strategy.)

But my favorite system names are those inspired by the 2 character codes for the icehouse pieces, which are always the first letter of the color followed by the number of pips (ie. a G3 is a 3-point green piece). I name B1 systems Bomber, and B2 systems I call Stealth, in honor of the flying-wing shaped B2 Stealth Bomber. I have yet to ever go to an R2 system, but when I do, I'll name it R2D2. But the one I like best is Plugh, a Y2 system. (It's a Colossal Cave text adventure joke, if you don't get it, don't worry about it.)

Anyway, I've obviously been spending way too much time on this, but I'm having a great time with it, and if you're into Homeworlds, sign up and challenge me to a game!

And here's more fun Super Duper News! Aaron says the next game he's doing will be my own Martian Chess! I won't be able to resist playing that, either!

In other news, other stuff has been happening. The Family Fluxx proofs have come in and gone back out, and soon Carta Mundi will start printing it. Chrononauts is sold out but we're working on the 3rd printing changes, and plan to have it for sale again before Xmas. We think we know who won the Fluxx Buxx contest, but we're waiting a little longer to be sure we've gotten all the entries. I'm still working on packing boxes whenever I can find time, but it's slow work so it's still going to be a long time (like, spring) before we move. I've got a couple of exciting new game projects on my mind, but it'll be a long time before I'm ready to even mention those here on the website (except in very vague ways). We went to the Firefly movie and found it disappointing. Russell has gone to Amsterdam & Essen without me, and I'm wishing I could have gone, too. We had a new roof put on the house, my brother broke his foot while exploring Germany, and the weather has gotten cold and rainy.

But I'm sure it's my turn again in at least one game of Homeworlds, so I really need to finish this up and go.

AndyThanks for reading, have a great week, and Don't Forget to Play!

Thought Residue
"I'm not really clear how much a billion dollars is but the United States -- our United States -- is spending $5.6 billion a month fighting this war in Iraq that we never should have gotten into. We still have 139,000 soldiers in Iraq today. Almost 2,000 Americans have died there. For what?" -- Andy Rooney, CBS's "60 Minutes"

The Dutch are leading the way again! The Netherlands has effectively legalized group marriage by granting a civil union to a man and two women. Victor de Bruijn insists there's no jealousy between the three partners because Mirjam and Bianca are bisexual. "I think that with two heterosexual women it would be more difficult," he said, noting he is "100 percent heterosexual."
"From the darkness nearby comes the sound of shuffling feet. As you turn towards the sound, a nine-foot cyclops ambles into the light of your lamp. The cyclops is dressed in a three-piece suit of worsted wool, and is wearing a black silk top-hat and cowboy boots and is carrying an ebony walking-stick. It catches sight of you and stops, seeming frozen in its tracks, with its bloodshot eye bulging in amazement and its fang-filled jaw drooping with shock. After staring at you in incredulous disbelief for a few moments, it reaches into the pocket of its vest and pulls out a small plastic bag filled with a leafy green substance, and examines it carefully. 'It must be worth eighty pazools an ounce after all' mumbles the cyclops, who casts one final look at you, shudders, and staggers away out of sight." -- a random event that occurred very rarely in David Platt's 550-point expanded version of the original Colossal Cave text adventure game (seen quoted on wikipedia)

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