Public Transit

For those of you who know me, you know I take public transit to work every day. Now I recently moved (maybe more on that later) but by moving I’ve changed my daily routine of walking 5 minutes to the train station to experimenting for Public Transit in my new place.

For those of you who don’t know me, I live in New Jersey (about 13 miles outside of Manhattan) and work in “the city”, technically Downtown Brooklyn, which many wouldn’t consider the city at all. Although the big boss keeps suggesting we might be moving into Manhattan at some point next year.

Anyway, so NJ Transit trains are fairly reliable, however I was one of the “lucky” who was stuck on the train under the tunnel for 3 hours.

Since I also have AT&T, I was able to keep myself entertained with my Nook and my Nintendo DS since I didn’t have the luxury of having the internet or phone service like the Verizon customers on my train… Anyway, in general the trains are very consistent, sometimes being clogged, but hardly taking more than 40 minutes (as opposed to the 30 they are estimated to take) to make a one way trip.

My new location is much further from the train I was taking (I could either walk about a mile to the closest stop, or my town also has a shuttle that I can take down to the train station I was previously taking, and do that. I haven’t quite done that in the mornings yet, as I’m barely awake enough to eat cereal and read some morning emails. But I have taken it home a few times (albeit to my old apartment, which still has a few things left behind). But it’s given me an interesting perspective on things.

1. Taking the DeCamp bus into the city isn’t really all that bad. I haven’t quite figured out the schedule yet, and there seems to be less consistency of when they actually arive. But my walk to the bus stop is much less than my old walk, since it picks up right at the end of my block.
2. Taking the DeCamp bus out of the city has the privilege of sitting on Route 3 the parking lot if any accidents or similar causation occur.
3. Although, I have been leaving work at a similar time and getting home at a similar time as long as the bus doesn’t have to stop because of traffic based on an accident.
4. I have the ability to take the bus up to my favorite bar which I guess I could have done before, but now it’s part of the flow of my evening commute instead of being a hassle and full planning ahead type of thing.
5. DeCamp “monthly” passes aren’t month long ones, like the NJTransit passes. When I buy 40 tickets at a discount, I’m literally getting 40 one way passes from it. When I buy a monthly NJ Transit ticket, I can ride NJ Transit all I want for that month, but that’s it. If I take a vacation for a week, then it’s not worth getting the pass for NJ Transit. For DeCamp, if I take a vacation for a week, then I just finish using up those tickets one week later then I normally would have.

Greenland Ideas

While it would be cool to try to add Greenland as a Kickstarter Project. I think I want to get the actual gameplay fleshed out to Full Prototype status before I try to do anything like that. I do have a plan for this blog starting in the beginning of the year.

A lot of the Rules Sheet are typed up and for these parts, I’m happy with how they structure the game.

The rule book will be on display, one section at a time. We’ll see how often I’ll post, I’m thinking it’ll be best to be every 2 weeks or so. While the portion of the Rule Book on display will be the main portion of each blog post, I’ll try to go into detail for some parts why I made particular decisions. Or maybe discuss other related information regarding Greenland. I’m hoping with the timing setup with posting the Rules, I’ll more commonly be doing something with the game. More easily be able to add 10 minutes worth of content.

If you’d like to see something relating this, feel free to let me know.

Server Move Done

Well, I still am going to be doing some cleaning up around the site. But the server has seemed to completed it’s move relatively painlessly. If you actually had a user account, it looks like the export/import didn’t save those. Sorry about that, although to be honest it was mostly spam accounts that had user accounts here.

I’ll have to remember what else I had settings-wise and get it all up to speed.

Moving Servers

In the next few weeks I’ll be moving Hosting Servers. Hopefully if I do things properly there will be minimal downtime, but I want to get the new account setup and all my files transferred before changing my domain. Feel free to send me an email if things don’t look like they should.

Back to our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Time to redouble my efforts. I have my prototype board for Greenland out on my table in the living room. I have all the pieces setup how I’d expect to see them. I’m looking for a program to print out the sample cards I’ve generated. Not every card has been designed yet, but a fair amount have been. And each have a resource attached to them. I was using Inkscape with the boardgame extensions, but it doesn’t want to print on the page very well. Hopefully I can either figure it out, or find another utility to do it for me.

I still need to work out the details to the “Opposing faction” part of the game. But I need to look through my notes to determine how far I’ve gotten with it. I wonder if splitting the play styles in two will hurt the game. On one hand it should make solitaire play easier. (Creation of a “robot” that a Greenland player can aim against.)


Well I’ll soon be re-employed as a Software Developer and hopefully that means I’ll be able to be more motivated to ASoOJ. Things have been slow around these parts as I looked for a new job, and the Amateur Game Designer had to take a back seat the Professional in me. Gotta put some food on the table?

I have been working on some side projects, just ones that were more focused on programming. I figured that would be a good way to keep my skills as sharp as possible, and give me something to talk about on interviews.

So Thursday is going to be a Homebrew day where the plan is to brew a pretty classic Irish Red. I’m hoping it comes out as delicious as the Pumpkin beer that we brewed in October.

I’m going to bust out the plans for Greenland so I can brainstorm up some ideas. I’m pretty happy with the Greenland side of things, of course, playtesting should help even any of that out. I have some interesting ideas for how the Denmark side should play, but need to get it fleshed out, and working with the economy structure. I do want to try to balance my projects more carefully than previously, and it would be fun to be able to get others to playtest my own board game. But I have to take it one step at a time.

Soon I will be out of the tunnel, and focusing my energy on work-life-play might be trickier than it was previously.

We’ll see how it goes.

Roll-Playing and Contests

So I had planned to write a bit about the session that I’m GMing right now. But that’ll probably have to wait until later. For now, let’s talk about Contests. For whatever reason I’m a sucker for Contests. I have always had a lucky streak. And contests for cool systems that I’ve been wanting to try out for a while are a great way to dive in.

So when I heard about troll in the corner’s giveaway I spread the word to my buddies in my gaming group and started rolling away on my lucky dice until I rolled out all of the 1s (not really, but I could have!).

So if you haven’t heard of Pathfinder yet, it’s sorta like D&D 3.75. And the contestis a great way to explore some new worlds. There seems to be a ton of modules out for Pathfinder already and Paizo doesn’t have the same stigma to me as Hasbro/WotC does.

I wonder if I’ll be able to convert my 3.5 campaign into Pathfinder. Actually, it’s probably better to keep it as 3.5 since one of the guys haven’t role played before. But if Pathfinder holds up to backwards compatible, then someone of the stuff may be forwards compatible. And it would be neat to integrate some of the things I’ve been reading about.

Peel Deals

So of late, my family has been having some interesting conversations about food from our youth. One specific food of conversation was called the Peel Deal. Now being the youngest (and a male who generally devoured anything) a lot of the stuff we ate I didn’t know the name of. Unless it was something simple, like Grilled Cheese, or Mac and Cheese, or French Bread Pizza. You get the idea.

Now Peel Deals are quite the interesting food. It takes a handful of things that are all good on their own. (Hot Dogs, Bread, Cheese) jams them together in a foil, and let’s the heat melt it all together. Part of the Deal is that you need to Peel away the foil to get to your food. One might ask “Is that where the name came from?” And I would tell you “Sure!” cause seriously, I didn’t even know the name until a few days ago.

I can almost hear you, dear blog reader, salivating from behind your monitors. Well, while I have your attention let’s settle one thing immediately. I haven’t had one of these in probably 15-20 years, and I never knew the name of it when I did. So why is this now becoming such a hot topic? Well, to be forthright, I have no idea. But alas, enough with the delays. Let’s get on to the recipe.

Now let me preface this whole thing with something. I will not supply any other recipes that suggest putting Ketchup on your Hot Dogs. Once you are old enough to know better, mustard is the condiment to put on dogs.

Hot Dogs, American Cheese, Bread, Condiment of Choice (Ketchup or Mustard)
1. Boil the Hot dogs.
2. Butterfly the Hot Dog and place the cheese in the middle.
3. Place on bread, applying Condiment between dog and Bread.
4. Roll up in the bread, and place in Aluminum Foil.

The heat of the dogs should melt the cheese into the bread and create a Deal of a mess that you have to Peel from the foil.

So if you were up for a blast from the past, check out the Peel Deals. I’ll try to confirm if the recipe is right, but from what I understand it’s correct. Well, there ya go. Enjoy the Peel Deals, and maybe they’ll make a storming come back as Organic Peel Deals. I can just picture it now, Tofu Dogs, Low-Fat Cheddar, and some type of Healthy Whole wheat bread.

Complaints about Monopoly

Alright, I may have done this before but lets have a few complaints about Monopoly. The game isn’t really all that interesting, and doesn’t have that much going on for it. A lot of times people lump Monopoly in with Risk, because of the positive feedback loop. Being in the lead allows you to be further in the lead by strengthening your position. And while that aspect is true for both games: in monopoly, if you have a bunch of property, you are more likely to make more money to allow you to buy more property; in risk, if you own a bunch of countries, you gain more reinforcement troops which allow you to conquer more countries. The comparisons are quite valid, and lots of people make points about them.

In quick defense of the game that I wasted many many hours in (Risk) even though there is this type of feedback, a lot of cases its the player’s fault if they don’t target the person who is in the lead. Sure sometimes it’s impossible to stop (like cashing in cards) but with average dice, there can be enough player interaction to take the leader down a peg or two. It may take a little time to crown a victor, but that time is spent jockeying for position. In monopoly, interaction is limited (at best) and that time is spent watching the richest person rack up positive cash each loop around the board. And likely, the $200 bonus from passing go isn’t enough for the losing players to make up the difference.

So if you haven’t seen it yet, there’s an internet post floating around about the shortest possible game of Monopoly. While I applaud the players for attempting to play the Shortest game possible. But there’s one major problem, that’s a problem with most Monopoly games. They don’t play by the rules. Now there’s a major difference between saying Monopoly’s Shortest game, and Monopoly’s Shortest game with our own house rules. I know that few people actually play the auctioning rules, but they speed up the game dramatically. This shortest game obviously isn’t using them. Luckily they don’t play with any other house rules, (or if they are the game is too short to focus on them) but as an amateur game designer, a lot of time is spent tweaking balance in a game. Now you might not like the idea of auctioning, or think it might be too complex for the kids to play, but the problem is: once you’ve played a handful of games without those rules, you’ll never play the actual rules.

There are a few comments about auctioning, but the original poster just claims they both decline to bid anything. The original rules stated that a property must be sold to the highest bidder in an auction. In fact, no auctioning occurs in their game which speeds up the movement, but also is unrealistic. Noone actually says “i’m not going to bid” and they just run through the game as if it’s assumed. Hell, if someone said I’m not going to bid, I’d bid a $1 just to get cheap property.

Hell don’t get me wrong. I don’t have that much against adding rules to speed up a game or make things more interesting. But the auction rules aren’t being played, and people never read the rules to realize they are missing anything. How else can we get word out? When I was much younger, we used to play a variant of Rummy 500 with all types of crazy rules. Instead of drawing 13 cards to be able to play everything we allowed more matches to go through. Just a few that I can remember off the top of my head are: crosswords (reusing a card for both a run and a triple), cousins (runs of the same color), around the corner (K-A-2 run). This sped up the game, and allowed some fun rulings.

Hell we used to play 7 card stud with crazy wildcards. Winning with a pair was boring, but winning with a straight flush! That was something. We used the baseball or the woolworth wild rules. Baseball, 3’s and 9’s were wild and 4’s were an extra card. Woolworth 5’s and 10’s were wild, and 6’s were an extra card. Basball makes sense: strikes and innings are wilds, a walk is an extra card. With Woolworth, everything in the store was 5 cents or 10 cents (maybe when my parents were growing up) but I have no idea where the 6 came in. Looking online, it doesn’t seem like anyone actually used this extra card for Woolworth so I wouldn’t be surprised if we just made that up. Possibly, 6 represented the Sales Tax in New Jersey. Although from a game flavor standpoint, giving you an extra card for tax doesn’t make sense.

So anyway, Monopoly sucks and you shouldn’t play it. If the best game you are playing is Monopoly, try switching over to family friendly games like Ticket to Ride, Carcassonne or Settlers of Catan.

Brittany Sportscard

So I got a little carried away last time, so here is some more about local card scenes.

So the first place I found out about was right near my middle school in Bloomfield, NJ, which I happened to be attending when I started playing Magic. This place was called Brittany Sportscard. (Everyone just called it Brittany’s which was the name of the owner’s daughter IIRC) So this place was your traditional Sports Memorabilia/Comic Shop/Trading Card shop. The store was pretty long so the Comics were all along the one wall. And then he had I guess more expensive stuff under glass. So whatever signed baseballs he was selling, or whatnot. He had some single Magic cads there, and I’m guessing single Sports cards too. They kept all the boosters on the opposite wall of the comics. So the glass things would separate the customers out, and then the guys working would have to turn behind them to get the boosters or starters.

Now for whatever reason Brittany’s always had packs of older cards. This is 95/96-ish and you would expect them to just have like only the most recent expansions like Ice Age and Alliances and 4th Edition or whatever. But they seemed to have a bunch of Revised/Dark/Legends lying around too. I don’t know if they just had a huge stock of them or what. The other thing about Brittany’s is their pack prices was always pretty expensive. The cheapest cards would be the list price on the pack. I know they are a business, and I usually bought there when I first started playing, but it started to wear a little bit that prices were as expensive as they were. Especially after we found our second playing ground, Comic World, had much cheaper prices.

The best thing about Brittany’s was they had a Type 1 tournament every month. The first Saturday (I think) of each month at around 7 all of the local Magic geeks would come together and Brittany’s would open up their basement and crowd everyone downstairs amongst the setup tables and extra inventory. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think anyone actually had the Power Nine. But it was nice to not be too restricted with what you could play. If we were playing Type 2 (which was in it’s infancy) I wouldn’t have see all the random old cool cards (like the Green Serendib Efreet or Braingeyser or …). It also seemed like all the guys who were playing when I started had tons of Dual lands, and had pretty big firepower. So for 5 bucks you got entry into the tournament, a slice of pizza, and a can of soda. Winner and 2nd place got some prize booster support. I recall at some point they started giving a random pack to someone. But for the cost of $5 you basically got dinner and a place to play cards for 5 hours. Once you got knocked from the tournament they just asked that you stay out of the way of people still in the tournament, but as much trading/casual play as you could fit in was expected. Oh and if you happened to buy a bunch of cards while you were there from the store all the better.

I don’t remember who I played in my first Brittany’s tournament, but I remember having like a 5 color 80 card deck. After getting destroyed pretty quickly in the first game to my opponent I chatted with him for a bit and decided I was going to remove all of my red cards from my deck (obviously it was Red that was the problem since I didn’t draw any mountains) and didn’t fair much better in game two. Yes, I realized later it was completely illegal for me to do this, but this was more casual. The guy was nice enough to trim my 80 card 5 color deck down to 60ish cards, and only 2 or 3 colors. I’m sure he traded stuff with me, and I probably lost a pretty good rare for some Timmy rare. But the new deck seemed pretty decent.

Sometime early on I ended up swapping cards accidentally with one of the regulars. A long-haired metal dude named Shaun (I think that’s the right spelling, I never knew his last name). Swapping cards wasn’t exactly what happened though, he ended up with some multi-colored beads that I used for counters, and I ended up with his Red/Black land destruction deck. This was still early on for me, and I felt bad about losing my beads, but thought it a great learning experience. I played his deck against my own, and learned how the deck worked. It was like taking apart a computer built by one of the better builders in the local scene. The deck was pretty ruthless if it could get going. 4 Sinkholes, 4 Blights, 4 Strip Mines, 4 Stone Rain, 4 Sedge Trolls, 3 Demonic Hordes, 3 Icy Manipulators, 4 Badlands. Something like that. It just tried to bludgeon you into having no resources. We successfully swapped back at the next tournament and he was quite relieved to get back his prized possession.

I don’t know exactly how long it took but I know by the next year I had become a dominant force on the scene. I had built a UW Stasis deck that deck could almost play itself. I would counter big threats, sit there and not do all that much. Then lock down the board and coast to victory. I used Kismet, Storm Cauldron, Capsize, Chronatog, Enlightened Tutor, Ivory Tower, Black Vise, and some creature kill. I could probably rebuild the deck off the top of my head. With a Kismet/Stasis lock in play, I would just stall long enough until I drew the 3rd puzzle piece. To be honest, the deck wasn’t that fun to play, because it was racing my opponent to the lock, and it definitely wasn’t fun to play against. I think I only lost a few matches with the deck fully built. And one of the losses in the semifinals, I had my opponent completely locked out, each of us had a Zuran Orb out and he sacrificed some land to have more life than I did just before they called time. Brittany’s had a policy to not give extra time and since they did a bracket style tournament instead of Swiss, they awarded my opponent the victory. A poor way to end a game, they should at least have let me get the chance to sacrifice lands myself. Oh well, I have long memories but try not to hold any grudges. My opponent was gracious enough to give me a card from one of his packs for getting second place. I was still convinced I would have gotten first, but there wasn’t much I could do about it.

The tournaments had started getting erratic around this time, and wasn’t a guarantee to happen each month anymore. But the next tournament my Stasis deck had been dismantled and most of the pieces were sitting in my trade binder. I built a new Silver Bullet style deck that would haunt my opponents. Between all the creature recursion, always having an answer, and having the finisher in my back pocket, my Hermit Misery deck won with as much consistency as the Stasis deck but with a higher fun factor for myself and my opponents.

It always felt so weird to not know if they were having their tourney that month or not. They definitely should have had a better system. This was before the internet was so widespread, but they required word of mouth and it just didn’t work that well. A lot of the regulars started getting out of the game, and with less new blood coming in and less regular tournaments the lot of us changed primary scenes to Comic World.

Brittany’s had another location near the high school, which was actually their first location. And as almost a final hurrah, after the store I knew about closed down they had one last Type 1 tourney at the other location. It was fun to play another Brittany’s tournament, so I decided to bring a fun green Land destruction deck that was Type 2 legal. I added a few Type 1 staples (like Regrowth) and went to the tournament with a bit of a handicap. I think that was the last tourney Brittany had. I wish I had kept some type of record of the deck I brought to each event and how well I fared.

I know those Brittany tourneys had been feeding me with lots of extra boosters. So here’s a toast to Brittany’s. Thanks for all the great hours. I don’t know exactly when you went under, but I loved spending hours in your basement playing cards. And thanks for everyone else for the good competition. I wonder if any of you still play or would be up for some casual games.