Surly Curmudgeon

   The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbors than the other sort.
-- Robert A. Heinlein
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    Wednesday, May 30, 2012

    Thought for the Day

    What is the purpose of the idealist, the purist, the political gadfly, if he has no hope of winning elections? It is to stand at the end of the rope and pull with all his might in the direction that things ought to go, in hopes of steering the conversation toward something better.

    Posted by Tom, 5/30/2012 1:12:19 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Wednesday, May 2, 2012

    Board Game Organization: Arkham Horror

    Finally, I come to the one that had me stymied for a while: Arkham Horror

    Arkham Horror's pieces are legion. The board is huge. There's multiple decks of cards to keep organized. The skill mechanics beg for extra dice and the random monsters beg for my patented Crown Royal bag solution.


    Note that this is without expansions. I found this on the intarweb, depicting just the pieces (not the boards) for the game with all the expansions:

    I started, as I always did, with one of the large Plano boxes like I used for Wiz War. Unfortunately, while this held almost all the parts, it wouldn't fit in the box with the factory insert, and wouldn't play well with the cards either.

    It helps to remember that one of my goals is also to enhance the play experience, so I wanted a good "bank" of tokens. For this I found the Plano 3447, which handles the health, sanity, and money tokens nicely:

    Turning back to the stash I'd put together on my first trip, I had these:

    Two of these organized the monsters, including a nice separate area for the Mask monsters which need to be sorted out per the game rules:

    A third one held the clue tokens, doom/elder signs, shop closing, and other items:

    To hold the investigator tokens without having to take them off the bases (which would eventually damage them), I grabbed a pair of Plano 3448 boxes, which could hold 2 investigators in each compartment:

    Finally, I stacked these carefully in the box, leaving the insert in place for the card organization, game dice, and gate tokens, while also adding a nice stack o' dice for spreading around as needed:

    Then added a second layer:

    Finally, added the investigator sheets and a Crown Royal bag:


    Posted by Tom, 5/2/2012 7:51:53 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Board Game Organization: Wiz War

    My first foray into board game organization was actually a shotgun approach. I had 3 games that desperately needed organization (Small World, Wiz War, and Arkham Horror) and 2 that did not. Miskatonic School for Girls is beautifully packaged, and being a card game, it was rather easy for the creators to have a nice insert provided in which to place the various decks. Pandemic starts as a game in need of organizing, but if one picks up the On the Brink expansion, they provide a collection of plastic petri dishes for a nicely thematic storage solution, and thus order is restored.

    So it was that I made my first run to the various stores detailed earlier, buying a variety of parts boxes for the purpose of spreading out the chaotic game pieces and seeing what went where. The first game to show the promise of success was Wiz War.

    As with the others, the primary means of organization started with a pile of Ziploc bags, and the game's box insert clearly encourages this, with a couple of cardboard tabs to hold the decks and a large trench for dumping pieces:

    As with the others, I wanted something more. Fortunately, with Wiz War almost everything is easily organized into a 20-slot Plano-style container...

    ...which easily fits into the box alongside the life counters and a couple of Magic: the Gathering-style deck boxes for keeping the cards safe.

    The biggest challenge is yet to come...

    Posted by Tom, 5/2/2012 5:42:32 PM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Board Game Organization: Small World

    My latest obsession with board games has produced a bit of a quandary. I like things to be neat and orderly (my wife would claim otherwise, but that's a different argument), and a lot of these games come with a lot of tokens and no good way to organize them. Once I had about 3 or 4 such games, my left eye started to twitch with an absolute NEED to put things in order.


    Come up with a storage solution that:

    1) Holds all tokens from the base game and any expansions that don't have a (good) box of their own
    2) Is not a giant pile of Ziploc bags
    3) Keeps the tokens organized in such a way as to be easy to use during a game, and easy to put away after the game.


    4) Fits in the game's box

    Small World

    Small World comes with about a bajillion tokens for use during play.

    It also comes with a serviceable, but not ideal, tray to hold and organize the tokens:

    Add in the expansions Grand Dames, Be Not Afraid, Tunnels, and Cursed!, and you roughly double the token count for armies and similar small pieces. The Tales and Legends expansion adds a deck of cards. Be Not Afraid comes with its own token tray that organizes all of the expansions (minus Tales and Legends) to date:

    The problem for me was that this tray just kind of sits outside the box (violating rule 4), and the lid that comes with it, while handy for keeping the tokens from bouncing around, is by no means "secure". I could easily see it being a huge mess if dropped, or if it slid off the seat while driving to game night, or whatever.

    There are discussion forums out on the internet, particularly at Board Game Geek, where folks go into exhaustive detail on different ways to organize Small World. Since my "victory conditions" require a little more effort than these discussions had demonstrated, and because I'm also organizing a few other games, I headed out to see what I could find in the way of solutions.

    I started by going to the local hobby, sporting goods, and hardware stores and buying an assortment of cheap "small parts organizers", which means craft bead organizer, tackle box, and screw/nut/washer organizers in each of those stores respectively.

    The small world box is about 11" square on the inside, with 2" of depth after the boards and instructions are stacked inside. After messing with several different arrangements, I finally hit upon a solution I thought would work once I did some more shopping.

    I found these little guys at the local hobby store:

    They are exactly 1" high and 3.5" wide, so 6 of them can fit in a double-stacked row across the game box. They hold army tokens beautifully:

    I then needed a box that could organize the non-army tokens, was less than 2" tall, and less than 6" wide. It should also be a little on the short side so I'd have some room outside it for the army placards, which seemed to defy organization in the way that I needed.

    At Lowe's, I found the Stack-On SBR-10:

    This organized the larger tokens, including the mountain tokens, which most folks seem to have trouble getting stored, so I saw that as a personal victory:

    All of this stacked in the box left me with room on the side to stack the army placards, which as I said were causing me some trouble:

    I dropped the Tales and Legends deck on top of that, and found room to stuff a couple of Crown Royal bags (for random tile drawing, natch), and...

    Posted by Tom, 5/2/2012 7:58:23 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Thought for the Day

    I make it a point of honor to never have any problems with what a person believes.

    My only problems are with what they propose to do about it.

    Posted by Tom, 5/2/2012 6:02:23 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...

    Tuesday, May 1, 2012

    Web Comics

    One of my latest hobbies is reading web comics. When I find a new one that seems interesting, I hit the "First" button and go all the way back to the beginning and read it up to the current content. Then it goes in my daily/weekly reading list.

    My current list looks like this:

    d20Monkey: This one's about tabletop roleplaying games and their players. There's lots of good gamer jokes, fun extended plot lines, and the latest experiment he did with a Cthulhu storyline was especially good. The characters don't really stand out for me, but I like the way he handles the gamer subculture.

    GRRL Power: A comic about female superheroes, this is one of two comics that keep my attention because of the way he writes female characters. Sydney, the main character, is a gamer geek who owns a game store and has super powers to boot. She's 21, hyperactive, somewhat neurotic, and apparently the most powerful member of her superhero team. The artist's style is very inconsistent, but in a way that works together. Most of the time he does really good comic-book-style art of the sort I typically enjoy, but occasionally he devolves into a more crude anime-style that seems quickly drawn and just dashed out to meet a deadline. The cool thing about it is that the frenetic drawing almost always coincides with a frenetic scene, so the it's not as jarring as it might otherwise be.

    HijiNKS ENSUE: HijiNKS ENSUE is more of a one-off comic that riffs on geek media. Topics include Star Wars, Star Trek, every science fiction show known to man, and of course Joss Whedon. I occasionally get a little bored with it because he doesn't spend hardly any time on gaming, but his takes on movies and television are always entertaining.

    Lead Paint: I'm not sure why I like Lead Paint. It's quirky, a little geeky, and occasionally has a laugh-out-loud strip, but for the most part just riffs randomly. Like Seinfeld, it's mostly about nothing. It tends to wander off into crude humor from time to time (actually, most of these do), and its geek beats tend to be few and far between, but for some reason I keep reading.

    NPC: NPC is largely about being an adult and a hardcore MMO gamer. It tends to focus on the two big ones right now, World of Warcraft and Star Wars: The Old Republic, but it does comment on a lot of other gaming/gamer tropes. NPC is the comic that made me want to play Pandemic, mostly as a result of the author's commentary that accompanied the strip.

    Penny Arcade: In every world, there is the 900 pound gorilla, and in the world of web comics that gorilla is Penny Arcade. These guys tend to focus on console gaming, which is a little weird for me in that I don't (and haven't ever) really do much of it. Their jokes are usually "in-jokes" for people who have played the games, but I still find them funny most of the time. The thing I most like about Penny Arcade though, is their television series, particularly when they do their "4th Panel" episodes that document the creative process behind their strips. As a person who struggles to write, those are endlessly fascinating. I tend to wonder if I would write more and better if I had someone to share the process like Mike and Jerry do.

    PvP Online: A former coworker (vortmax) introduced me to PvP, and it was my first webcomic. I like the characters, particularly Brent Sienna, and while most of the time the story lines don't strike me as particularly compelling, I love watching the characters react to various situations. Having read a lot of Scott Kurtz's commentary, and seen him on the Penny Arcade show(s) (he works with/for Mike and Jerry), I love the way comics have been an outlet for my fellow introverts, and Scott, Mike, and Jerry all make me wish I could draw so I could have that outlet too.

    Rock, Paper, Cynic: This comic is completely one-off jokes about all sorts of different things. I like it because it reminds me of "The Far Side", which I used to read religiously as a kid.

    The Trenches: The Trenches is a collaboration between Scott Kurtz, Mike Krahulik, and Jerry Holkins, above. It's still finding its tempo, but since I'm a fan of their other work I'm keeping up with this one.

    Twice Blessed: I clicked into Twice Blessed from an ad on one of my other comics (can't remember which). I'm not sure I'll keep with it, but I'm waiting to see if it holds my attention.

    Weregeek: Weregeek is mostly about roleplaying gamers, from the tabletop types to LARPers. It's also one of the few written and drawn by a woman (NPC is another). I read it because I like her take on gamer personalities -- each of the characters reminds me of someone I'm either currently playing with or have played with in the past. Abbie in particular reminds me of the cheerful side of a girl who used to throw her dice (HARD) at the gamemaster when he made her mad. They were dating at the time, too... I'm not sure how much of one resulted in the other.

    The last two are currently in my "catching up on back issues" pile. I'm reading them at the rate of about a dozen a day, but I've got several years' worth of material to catch up on, so it's a project.

    Looking For Group: While most of the comics about gaming tend to switch back and forth between the players and the characters they play, LFG is entirely "in-game", though which game it is seems to be an amalgamation of World of Warcraft, Dungeons and Dragons, and a variety of others. The best character is Richard, a warlock with an unceasing and macabre sense of humor. Serious conversations are almost always broken up with interjections from Richard that range from the random to the self-obsessed to the psychotic, and it all works very well together.

    Questionable Content: QC is oddly enough about indie music nerds. I say oddly because I'm not into indie music. My tastes are severely top-40, and I don't get most of the music jokes being made. What I like about QC is that it is the second comic where I really enjoy the female characters (though the male lead is kind of annoyingly spineless). I don't know how true-to-life they are, but they reflect a lot of what I've seen in the women around me since college, so it's kind of like observational confirmation... some other dude sees the same thing I see.

    Posted by Tom, 5/1/2012 2:36:58 AM (Permalink). 0 Comments. Leave a comment...