Matt's blog

The story of me, an American in Edinburgh, Scotland finding my place as a musician, a husband, a father and a Christian.

The Haps in the World of Matt

Well, sorry I dropped off of the interweb for a few days there. I'm doing my best to get something up here at least every other day for to make me peoples happy. Here's a little update:

Even though we both still feel like foreigners, Jeni and I are starting to settle in Edinburgh. Now that each day is composed of more than just a frantic effort to survive to the next, we have found ourselves bored and in need of entertainment. Or perhaps I should say we've found ourselves board...

Anyway, how to entertain ourselves. Television is out. There are a few things on that would be cool to watch, but for the most part TV simply takes up your time and doesn't give anything back. When you add to that the fact that you need to pay a TV tax over here (in addition to the cost of buying a TV in pounds), TV's place in the not-an-option pile is secure.

If TV's out, than video games are also out. I know Jeni and I make fun of Drew probably more than is good for him, but we both kind of agree that the Nintendo Wii looks pretty nifty. It looks to me like it would encourage social interaction and even be (gasp) fun. I've spent enough time hunched over my computer screen, completely isolated from human interaction with nary a smile to be found on my face, to long for a time when video games where actually fun. (As an aside, the last time I found myself so involved was freshman year of college when I ended up dropping my English class because of Diablo 2. Since then I have nearly completely checked out of the video game scene and done little more but play the occasional game of Tetris on my computer or Burnout /Lego Start Wars when I'm back in L.A.) Ultimately because of the TV thing and the money required to buy a system and games, video games are out, too.

So what else do people do? Jeni and I are usually both working on at least one book, but reading for days and days straight can become tedious. We can't do anything cool, because we don't have the money and because around here 'cool' ends up leading to a pile of vomit on our steps, on the walls of uni buildings, in the doorways of shops, etc. How about something uncool? How about something decidedly nerdy?

How about board games?

Ok, so Jeni and I aren't total addicts yet, but it looks like we may both become gamers, in the board, cards, and dice sense, before too long. So far we have our old standbys Scrabble and Fluxx. We rediscovered a cool dice game which we were taught on a trip to Montana years ago. And of course, we have the Settlers of Catan. Settlers has become the big winner around here. Our neighbors love the game, to the point of unconsciously giving us the puppy dog eyes when we imply we might want to do something else for the night. We just picked up the 5-6 player expansion, so we can have Settlers ready for every situation.

Earlier this week we went out looking for a new game as a birthday gift for me (for me???). The guy at our local game shop recommended Carcassonne saying that it is the only game in his shop that he gives a money back guarantee on. Unfortunately, we will be taking him up on his offer. The game is pretty simple and at first looks like it will be nearly as mindless as Fluxx, which is good because we were looking for something to offset the intenseness of Settlers. It turns out that because of some weird scoring rules, Carcassonne gets weird and confusing. Once you play it 4 or 5 times you get the hang of it, but it is not a game that we feel we could just pull out to play with people casually. That's a plus of Settlers. Even though Settlers is an intense game, it is pretty easy to explain how the game works to a new player. The other downside to Carcassonne is that at the end of the game you need to score all the 'farms' which is a real mind numbing experience. After you've tallied up all the point you look at the scoreboard and say, "Oh, it looks like I won." Yeah, it's kind of anti-climactic.

I don't just want to bash this game, because I know there are a lot of people out there who love it. Unfortunately, Jeni and I have 4 mediocre games followed by one actually unpleasant one, and I'm afraid that has probably ruined the game for us. It'll go back to the store and get exchanged for something else pretty soon.

I think the experience has taught us about what it is that we like and dislike in a game.

  • Definitive win conditions. We like to know immediately when someone has won. Ambiguous scoring methods take away from the excitement and suspense of the game.
  • Constant involvement. We like games that keep you involved even when it's not your turn.
  • Chance. Chance is great.
  • Surprises. Much like chance, surprises are great.
  • The chance to take chances and set up surprises for other players. It's cool when you can pull something completely out of left field to win but do it in such a way that your opponents appreciate how awesome it was rather than just feel bad for being beaten.
  • Strategy. Even if it's just a little like in Fluxx, the strategic element of a game goes a long way towards entertaining your brain.
  • Being forced to make decisions or choose the lesser of two evils. I like the feeling of being caught between a rock and a hard place. It forces you to be creative and make do with what you have.
  • Negate everything on the above list.
  • Getting pounded mercilessly with no hope, not even a sliver, of salvation. That's a bad feeling. A good game should let you think there's a chance you could win almost no matter how far behind you are. Big turnarounds and underdog victories make for good gaming experiences.
That's kind of what's up with us in the non-serious part of our lives. Any other game ideas? We want games! Big ones, small ones, it doesn't matter. If you can think of any games we might like, let me know!

1 Responses to “The Haps in the World of Matt”

  1. # Blogger Andrew Seely

    Sadly to report Lego Star Wars was part of a trad-in to get Super Smash Bros: Melee.

    Though you will be able to play with my wii once I get it and you come to visit.

    I will reccomend some TV for you. Heroes on NBC (you can watch online) is a really amazing show. I think it's something you could get in to.

    And there have been games of settlers for me which really, really, really sucked. There has been one or two occasions where I quit mid game.

    Other than that, I do love the game.

    When do you start your school? Isn't that coming up soon?

    I miss ya guys. I'm glad that I get the chance to live vicariously through blogs. At least the internet is good for something.

    Talk to you soon.  

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