Board Games – Vlaada Chvatil

The board games I collect are also known as designer board games because each game identifies the designer on the box.  My favorite designer would be Vlaada Chvatil.  Odd since I don’t even have a clue on how to pronounce his name.

I own (or my brother owns) 7 Vlaada designs: Space Alert, Galaxy Trucker, Prophecy, Mage Knight, Dungeon Lords, Dungeon Petz and Though the Ages plus a number of expansions.  I haven’t played them all yet, but those I have played I have always loved.

There is little commonality in Vlaada designs.  Most of the games above are themed either as a fantasy or sci-fi experience, but the depth of theme varies from game to game.  Some are cooperative and some are competitive.  Two games are puzzle types that force you to make decisions under a tight time limit.  Many of the others are puzzlers in a different way where on your turn there might be an optimal move or sequence of moves and you need to figure it out.

They all have great component design and quality.  There is almost always as least one cute bit in a Vlaada game.  They all have great rules.  Vlaada usually writes two rules sets for each game.  One set is a walkthrough of your first game and presents the rules in the order your are likely to run into them.  The other is a reference rule set.  The rules are almost always funny.  Some are side-splittingly funny.  This is unusual for a rule book and make Vlaada games a treat.

But needing two rule books is often also necessary because the rules are fairly complex.  Some Vlaada games are lightweight, but I’d say most are medium weight games.

The sense of humour in the rules is often reflected in the game as well.  Playing the game can often be quite funny.

Anyway, I’d recommend all Vlaada Chvatil designs to anyone interested in board games.  They are challenging and fun to play.


School -so long ago

I went to 12 years of primary school education with the same 20 people. Is that typical?

It seemed normal, but cool to me.

I attended a French immersion program at the Catholic public school in Peace River. Our starting class in grade one greatly resembled our graduating class in grade 12. When someone joined the class or people left it was a big event. When our class was merged in with the English stream in high school it was a big event.

In our last couple years a few people deserted the class for the public school on the high hill. That was weird.

I wasn’t close to everyone, but in my head and heart they are still like a pseudo family. If those people asked for help, I’d try to help. If those people have good news, I’d be interested to hear it. It isn’t exclusive- those people that joined in grade seven got added to the list.

That being said, we certainly weren’t the closest grade to go through Glenmary and IC. the grade after us was even closer. My brother’s class might have been too.

I don’t want to name folks for privacy concerns and because I’d likely miss an obvious name. But it takes some of the teeth out of this post. Nuts.

Anyway, a howdy hello to anyone from that class in any iteration who ever stumbles across this blog. Sorry I suck at staying in touch.

I’ve been better recap

This will be short. I need to fit it in between bathroom breaks. Not at 100% today.

Brother’s birthday: thumbs up. Booked bus too short though.
Game Friday was pretty awesome. Nicely done GM.

GoT was good. Might be the best of the season. I think they botched the landing though with Loras and Renly.

Play test released. It occupies my thoughts. I’m such a geek. And I’m not even that into 5e.

Dave lent me another Aquaman. I was so far behind I got to read two in two weeks. Nifty.

Drinks out with the work crew last week. Nice turn out. Missed a different drinks out with the old work crew the day before due to an appointment.

In related news, the first Taco del Mar I ever ate at is now closed. Sad smiley face.

Ok. Done. Take care.

D&D Next : Advantages/Disadvantages

I’m not sure.  That is the sum up.

The mechanic is slick, interesting and easy.  It will create great storytelling moments like the time you fumbled with advantage.  But I have a number of reservations.

OK – D&D Next is the 5th edition of the venerable tabletop RPG D&D.  The owning company (WoTC) started a massive playtest of the new rules on Thursday.

Advantage/Disadvantage is a new rule.  When you have advantage you get to roll two dice and keep the highest.  When you have disadvantage you roll two dice and keep the lowest.


First the math.  It is a little tricky.  Folks are used to each an equal probability – d20 have 5% chance of any number being rolled or a bell curve – 2d20 has a greater likelihood of the middle numbers being rolled.  The advantage system is neither.  It is a linear progression.  There is 1 chance in 400 of rolling a 1, 11 of rolling a six, 21 of rolling an 11, 31 of rolling a 16 and 39 of rolling a 20.  (e.g. 2n-1).

What matters though is your chance of rolling x or higher.  95% chance of 5 or higher, 75% of 11 or higher, 50% of 15 or higher and 10% of 20.  Trying to align it with a flat bonus doesn’t work.  It looks like a plus 5 bonus compared at 11.  But compared at 20 it is not quite +2.  Also unlike a bonus it never eliminates the chance of getting a 1 or provides a chance of getting 21.  The range stays the same. (Note: I’m rounding all over the place.)

Crits and Fumbles change.  The chance of crit’ing nearly doubles and the chance of  fumble is reduced by 20 times.

(You can basically just reverse everything to talk about disadvantage.)

Basically it is not a probability progression taught in junior high math.  I see a lot of mistakes in analysis because of that.

Advantage doesn’t dramatically improve your chance of rolling really high.  A flat bonus does that better.  But it almost eliminates your chance of rolling very poor.

But is it D&D?

This is my biggest issue.  This little mechanic is a big change.  Checks in D&D have almost exclusively been based of flat probabilities.  This is very different.

One of the stated goals was to provide a core ruleset that invokes the classic D&D feel – whatever that is.  I’m not sure if I like this rule or not, but it isn’t classic D&D.  It is something new.  Which is exciting, but also different.

And it is all over the rules.  Conditions (restrained, prone, etc) all invoke it.  Spells use it.  And the rogue depends on it.  Like any new rule the temptation is to try and use it everywhere and that is what I see.

So it had better be something that can be lived with.

Rules Worries

The rest of my worries can likely all be cleared up with rules clarifications.

First, does advantage replace situational bonuses in combat?  Cover is still listed as a bonus.  But otherwise it looks like things that are written on your character sheet are bonuses (ability mods, weapon focus, etc.) and conditions are about advantages/disadvantages.

I ask because I’m worried the player/DM will get into the problem of should X provide a bonus or should it provide an advantage?  We now have two different ways of giving modifiers so this simple new system actually layers on complexity rather than removing it.

Second, stacking.  The rules say that if you affected by two advantages act as though they are one.  Same with multiple disadvantages.  If you have both they cancel out.  But what about two advantages and a disadvantages.  Is that a null or a net advantage?  And it seems that being at long range, while restrained and drunk should be more disadvantageous than a single disadvantage.

One of the benefits of the system is eliminating the search for that extra +1 you need, but if you need to track stacking bonuses than you get into that again.  Which would suck.  It also comes into play if you have to use both bonuses and advantages for different situational modifiers.

Thirdly and finally, what if what you need is an extra +1?  If you can roll a maximum of 22 and you need a 23, you used to be able to come up with an appropriate situational modifier and convince the DM of it.  Then you would likely fail the roll.  With just advantages, you can never get that ephemeral extra +1.  [Note any resolution to this issue likely conflicts with a resolution to the first rules issue.]


Curious to see if I’m making a mountain from a molehill.  Tough to say.  We aren’t planning on actually running any D&D Next sessions.

After my first two reads of the rules that is my first big issue.  I’m not sure there are others.  I need to look closer at the spells next.


Life sucks.  I have entirely too little to complain about.

People don’t let me down nearly as much as they could.  They constantly surprise me by going above and beyond.

The tech at my Dr.s appointment today was entirely too cute.  And had an infectious enthusiasm about her new job (week 3 on it) and her new puppy.

Plus it looks like I’m not dying.  At least no faster than a normal person.  (Not that I thought I was before either.)

My family is pretty darn spiffy.  My friends are decent too.

I could complain about work.  It is hard.  There is too much going on.  I don’t accomplish as much as I’d prefer.  But I’d complain louder if I was bored or it wasn’t challenging.  Plus my staff still makes me look good.

I’m reading a good book.  It is comic book day.  I get to hang out with my brother tonight.  Really.  Not bad.

I’d like more time.  More time to relax.  More time to get things done.  I’d like things to get done without me having to do them.  That might be the best I’ve got.

Which is too bad because I really like to complain.  Sigh.

Music – the singing

I have never written much about music on the blog.  That seems odd because I can’t imagine a life without music.  Music and Reading – I’d rank them about as critical to ongoing life as Eating and Sleeping.

July 2010 I spoke about Guitar Camp.  I covered my brief musical history in that post.  To sum up – I have far more enthusiasm than talent.  Musically I have the creativity of a turnip.  I can sing and mostly hold a tune (within my limited range), but I can’t harmonize.  I can play guitar and piano, but I can’t do fills via strumming or chording on either.  Which sucks.  Fortunately having real talent is not necessary to enjoy myself.

I grew up in a home with music.  Kinda.  Neither Mom nor Dad played any instruments.  But Mom always sang.  She had a clear, tuneful, enthusiastic voice.  And when there wasn’t singing, or vacuuming (the bane of existence), there was the stereo – tapes and LPs or even just the radio.

I sang with the radio all the time.  Mostly inappropriate songs for a small child like, “I got stoned and I missed it.”  I sang at home and I sang in school and I sang in church and I sang as I wandered down the street.  (Some streets and areas in town were just made for The Happy Wanderer song.)

Singing is part of school in early elementary.  We all sang, “Luc va a l’ecole avec son chien Fido.”  (Il traverse la rue.  Marche. Marche. Marche. Marche. And so on.)  Our fourth grade teacher was particularly enthusiastic and everyday had a sing along.  (He sang, played the accordion and the harmonica.)  But we realized that singing wasn’t cool about then.  Or at least, “Alouette, gentile alouette” wasn’t cool.

Singing on the street also not cool.  Singing in church may not have been cool, but at least everyone was doing it.  Singing at home always just remained something we did.

The last time I sang at school was grade 11.  The Beach Boys released Kokomo on the Cocktail soundtrack and I loved that song.  I put it on repeat.  I was listening to my walkman during exercise time in the computer lab of math class and doing my problems.  “Aruba, Jamaica, ooh, I’m gonna take ya…” I was just bobbing my head along, but singing at the top of my voice.

That was a bit embarrassing.  Turns out I’m not Brian Wilson.

But we were singing in cars by then.  I caught rides with friends and listened to tapes and CDs.  We all sang.  Even later in University days we still sang to the radio.  I remember one trip to BC with a buddy.  We listened to lots of Blue Rodeo.  I got the Jim Cuddy parts and he got the Greg Keelor parts.  I’m no Jim Cuddy either!  But that was very fun.

There really doesn’t appear to be any singing in the workplace. This sucks.  I’m sure I’d do better singing.

I started going to church again regularly last year.  I secretly enjoy being able to sing publicly and loudly in church.  If I miss anything about driving to work, it is singing in the car.

But there is always home.  There aren’t as many people living in my place as there was growing up so there is less sung music.  But there is still me!

Go and play this and you can pretend you are singing along with me right now!