Changes are afoot!

If there’s one thing that never changes, it’s that everything changes eventually. Life is constantly in flux; people and situations existing in a perpetual dynamism that guarantees, even on a day-to-day basis, that things will never be quite the same. Sometimes the changes are small, sometimes they’re life-altering.

‘Life altering’ is where things are now. Not so much for me (although it does affect a little), but for someone else.

Two friends of mine, Jason and Lora, are moving away. Not a great distance, but far enough that it will require plans to be made in order to spend time together. These are the folks that introduced me to ‘real’ board games. Not the standard fare I was used to, like Monopoly or Clue, but games with real weight and complexity to them, like Power Grid and Terra Mystica.

Many, many years ago, long before I met Jason and Lora, there was a group of us that were really into role-playing games, such as Dungeons & Dragons and Shadowrun. We also played Magic: the Gathering, with that card game eventually taking over all of our other games. But, as mentioned above, things change. People moved or simply fell out of touch with each other. I was left without a gaming group, desperately seeking another.

Enter Linda.

I kinda knew Linda through work. She worked there roughly the same time that I did, but we never really interacted with each other. Still, we knew about each other. Linda met, and married, Jerry, who found out that I painted miniatures. He once saw my work and made the comment that he had painted some for the gaming group that he belonged to. I mentioned that I was looking for a group to game with and asked that he keep me in mind if there was ever an opening at the table.

Months passed.

Linda then sent word to me that the gaming group was looking for someone to fill an empty seat, so I jumped at the chance. Slight problem, though: they were playing 4th Edition D&D; I had stopped playing during the hey-day of 2nd Edition D&D. I was very much behind the times, but the group assured me that they would bring me up to speed.

The first night I stayed pretty quiet, just learning about the folks around the table. Seeing how they acted and reacted to things, what their sense of humor was like and how they treated each other. It was a good group, very friendly and, much to my joy, major geeks. We understood each other. We could relate to each other.

I was very happy when I was invited back the next week.

It was about three or four weeks later that we were wrapping up our usual Friday night gaming session when Jason mentioned that they were going to play board games the next day and asked if I would be interested. One thing to keep in mind is that, at that time, the ‘game shelf’ in their house hadn’t been built yet. The games were tucked away in two different closets, out of sight. So when asked, all I thought of were the same tired old games. Still, I really liked these folks. Figuring it could be fun and we would get to know each other better, I accepted.

When I arrived the next evening, I was asked what I wanted to play. I shrugged, unsure of what to say. Jason lead me over to one closet, opened the door and said that I should pick one. I had never heard of any of those games. Words like Catan and Agricola and Dominion were boldly emblazoned on boxes, but offered no clues as to what they were. I confessed that I had never heard of these games and had no idea how to play any of them.

There was a strange look in their eyes, a glint not unlike a child on Christmas morning, and a wide grin on their faces. No doubt I get this same look these days when I bring others to new games.

And thus I was brought into the wide and wonderful world of board games. Games that challenge me, that make me think and, most of all, are absolutely fun to play.

Except Agricola. Agricola makes me cry and doubt my sanity.

Even though Jason and Lora are moving, this isn’t a ‘good-bye’ for us.

We’ll still talk on a regular basis. We still have our Friday night gaming sessions (we’re playing Pathfinder these days). Thanks to technology we’re able to meet-up virtually with Jerry, who’s living in Florida now. I’ll be able to join the game from home with my laptop. Just because there’s a lot of miles between us doesn’t mean we can’t still play games together.

One of the greatest things about Jason and Lora, besides getting me started with board games, is that they accepted me as I am. There wasn’t any judgement or chastising because we believed differently. Our belief systems are diametrically opposed, yet not only we were able to get along as individuals, we became friends. We care about each other. We help each other.

Hopefully we’ll still get together for board games, although it won’t be as frequently as it used to be. They’re going to find gamers in their new locale, just as I’m starting to find gamers around here.

So, Jason and Lora, I say thank you. You’re great friends and you’ve been some of the kindest, most-welcoming people I’ve ever met. I wish you all the best as you start the next chapter in this ever-changing life. May the move go smoothly, your boxes be quickly unpacked and your new home worry-free.

I’ll see you two later!

Hello to all my new ‘Friends’!

No doubt you’ve heard the expression that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. This is usually said by those individuals that are extroverts to the extreme. Those folks that are always peppy and “up”, who always have a smile on their face and spend every day walking on sunbeams. They’re friends with everyone and you can’t help but like them. You know….my evil counterpart; my antithesis.

Okay, so I’m not that bad, but I’ve never been overly outgoing, even though some people swear I’m one of those extroverts. Truth is, I’m a pretty severe introvert. However, over the years, with a great deal of practice, I’ve managed to be more outgoing but a lot of down time is required to recharge.

But this post isn’t about being an introvert or developing social skills.

This about a little experiment I tried over the weekend.

A few weeks backs I received a ‘Friend’ request on Facebook. Thing is, I had no idea who it was. The name didn’t seem to ring a bell and none of their photos showed a face that brought back any memories. We only had one friend in common, so it probably wasn’t someone that traveled in any of my local social circles.

Since I joined Facebook there have been a lot of people that I’ve reconnected with, some I haven’t seen in more than twenty years. Some of those were folks that I didn’t remember right away, but after looking over their profile a memory was jogged and pieces fell into place.

Not so with this individual.

This got me to thinking, as I’m wont to do, about how many people on Facebook accept these requests without really knowing who they are. How many click ‘Confirm’ without a clue as to who they’re letting to their life? How many are sending out requests to total strangers, just because they have a ‘Friend’ or two in common?

My rule has always been that I won’t send or accept a ‘Friend’ request without knowing who that person is. Some on my ‘Friends’ list are folks that I’ve never actually met, but I know them from various places online. We’ve spoken through forums or emails or private messages. We kinda-sorta know each other. That’s why my ‘Friends’ list on Facebook only has 123 people on it; and I’m amazed I have that many.

This time I broke that rule. I went ahead and accepted the request anyway because an idea sparked across the synapses.

Maybe this person was one of those individuals that likes to reach out, to make those inter-personal connections that draw us together as a species. And maybe, just maybe, it was something that I should try myself. As much as I enjoy my introversion – and I do relish it – maybe it was time to open up a little. But let’s not get too crazy about it. I’m not going to go out in public, walk up to complete strangers and ask them to be my friend. Finding friends on Facebook seemed like a good compromise.

As I perused my “People you might know” list on Facebook, I saw a lot of people that I know in real life and I almost started sending out requests to them; however, I hesitated when a thought occurred to me: what if I sent requests to people that I don’t know? What if I took a chance and reached out to almost complete and total strangers, just to see what would happen?

So I decided to send 50 ‘Friend’ requests to people that I don’t actually know to see how many confirmed and how many ignored me.

There were rules to this, of course. I’m wasn’t going to send out 50 requests all willy-nilly.

They had to be in my “People You May Know” list that Facebook generates.
We must have at least three ‘Mutual Friends’.
We must not have had any interaction in real life (that I can recall).
They can’t be friends of my daughters.

I would give it forty-eight hours and see who all accepted, who replied with a “who the heck are you?!?” and how many didn’t accept.

Hopefully my new ‘Friends’ understand that I was truly reaching out to meet new people. I wasn’t doing this to make light of them or Facebook or anything like that.

On Saturday morning I went through the list and sent out the 50 ‘Friend’ requests. No, I’m not naming names.

Here’s what happened:

Two accepted my ‘Friend’ request before I even finished sending all fifty requests. Within one minute of starting this, I had already gained two new ‘Friends’. That’s pretty cool.

Within five minutes, before I closed out of Facebook for a bit, four more had accepted. Six out of fifty.

An hour later, I checked back in. Two more had accepted. Eight out of fifty.

Twenty-four hours later and fifteen had accepted my friend request, with a couple saying of them sending a greeting.

At the end of the forty-eight hours, there were twenty-nine new friends. For all you stat-lovers out there, that’s 58%.

Some more might accept as days go by. After all, some people don’t get on to Facebook very often. I know a couple people that check in about once every six months.

Still, this was pretty cool and it answered the question. There are people out there willing to take a chance, to meet (in the virtual realm) someone they really don’t know and perhaps make a new friend.

Now it’s time to go back through the list and invite people I actually know!

Weekend gaming – 11-15-2014

After last week, this past weekend was down-right quiet, comparatively-speaking. There were games Wednesday and Saturday, but that was it.

Wednesday:

Tried out Concordia, which was new to me but the others present had played before. It’s an interesting game using resource management to send out your colonists to other cities on the map, either on foot or by ship. I picked up on the mechanics pretty quick, which I suppose shouldn’t be too surprising. After playing all of these board games it gets easy to learn how to play. The strategy of it, though…well, that takes a bit longer. I came in last by a pretty large margin.

After that we moved on to Masters Gallery, a game using cards to ‘bid’ on artwork. The basic idea is to drive up the value on the various masters (Van Gogh, Vermeer, etc) and have the most paintings by those artists to score points. Pretty sure I came in last on that one, too.

Saturday:

Our two new gamers that I’ve mentioned before and I went to a friend’s house for soup and games. It was a great way to spend a cold winter evening.

Since they’re still relatively new to gaming, we decided to introduce them to Splendor. It’s pretty easy to pick up, but, as I mentioned above, learning the strategy can take a while. I won the first game, but they liked it enough it give it another go. One of our new gamers took first place that time around.

After that, our host and I knew it was time to step things up a bit and brought out Ticket to Ride. Often referred to as a ‘gateway game’, it bridges the gap between the simpler games (Monopoly, Clue, etc) and the more advanced and complex games, such as Terra Mystica, Concordia, Belfort, etc. They caught on to the idea of building the rail lines and completing tickets, but our host has far more experience with this game than the three of us combined and they easily won.

With that game in books, we went with another game that’s a bit more complex than Ticket to Ride, but still not crossing over to the more intricate and nuanced games, and broke out 7 Wonders. In this game you draft cards to grow your resources, build armies, study sciences, and construct your ‘wonder’ (Pyramids at Giza, The Great Wall, etc). Our other new gamer took first place by about twenty points, so they either grabbed onto the concept of the game fairly quickly or they just got lucky.

We’ll go with the former.

It was getting late by then, so we wrapped up the night and said our good-byes.

Although not as jam-packed with gaming as last week, it was still a great weekend. The fact that our new gamers are really enjoying these games is fantastic. And it sounds like they’re starting to bring others into the fold as well as I’ve been asked to their house this week to introduce others to some of these games.

Happy gaming!

6Months (3) – Week 1

Week one is done and it wasn’t perfect, but some progress was made. Down a few pounds and a bit in body fat.

My nutrition is still getting dialed in. It’s amazing how quickly you can fall back into the unhealthy eating habits, so it’s taking a little time to get back to the healthy ones. I went to the game night on Saturday and even though I told myself to stay away from the snack table, there I was, loading up on pretzels and cookies. Right now I would say that I’m at about 60% healthy eating throughout the week. It used to be around 90 – 95% and I’ll get there again.

On the training side of things, I’m quickly getting back to where I was. No major DOMs, so my body isn’t as out of practice as I thought it would be. Even better is the fact that my shoulder seems to be holding up well although I’m starting to increase the weight. I’m not going to push too hard, though; rather take it slow and avoid injury.

Not much to report beyond that. Just trying to get back to where I was and making some progress in that area.

WEIGHT:

Starting weight (pounds): 247.2
Starting BF%: 27.5

Current weight: 242.4
Current BF%: 27.0

Gain/Loss
Weight: -4.8
BF%: -0.5

Weekend (plus!) gaming

There should have been a post last week about gaming over the weekend, but it just slipped past me. That’s okay, though, because this week there was a lot of gaming and it all started on Wednesday.

Wednesday:

Someone had read my post about board games and contacted me, saying they were interested in learning more about them. I invited them and their significant other to come over for an evening of games. We wound up with six people and it’s always nice to have a full table like that. (Note to self: get more chairs.)

Our new gamers wanted to start with something simple and fun but without a lot of competition. So we dove into Zombicide, the cooperative game where you to try survive hordes of the undead as you complete objecives. In this scenario, we had to clear some downed power line poles that were blocking an intersection. The Abomination spawned on the first turn, so we knew it was going to be a challenge. Fortunately we played it smart, got lucky finding the Molotov Cocktail and took him out. Poles were cleared, we jumped in the car and made good our escape as the shambling mob closed in around us.

(We’ll just gloss over how a certain someone kept shooting fellow survivors…)

After that our new players had to leave, so the remaining four of us broke out Tiny Epic Kingdoms. I honestly can’t remember who won this game, but I do remember there was a lot of jockeying for position. I played Dwarves, so building on the tower was a bit more difficult for the others.

Thursday:

The two new gamers from Wednesday night wanted to try out some more games, so they invited me over for dinner, followed by a game of Police Precinct (another co-op). They even rooked her teenage son into playing and he seemed to enjoy it.

In this one, we’re working to solve a murder while trying to keep the crime in the city from getting out of hand. There are emergencies to handle and street punks to bust, so it can be quite a challenge.

Fortunately one of our players had outstanding investigative skills (with a bit of assistance from the rest of us, of course) and we were able to apprehend the murderer with two turns left and the Crime Track one step away from failure.

Police Precinct
Police Precinct

Friday:

Three of us on this particular evening and we started off with Suburbia. Right from the start I was looking at the goals on the board (Most Water, Most Contiguous Water, Lowest Reputation) and decided to just focus on those. It was tough sustaining income throughout the game without losing too much reputation, but I hung in there and managed to secure all three goals at the end for the win.

We followed that up with Tiny Epic Kingdoms. Such a small box but so much fun. This game has easily paid for itself and I’m glad I backed it on Kickstarter. This time I went with a special ‘race’, The Order of Gamelyn (the game is made by Gamelyn Games). Alliances were made and wars were started. I squeaked out the win only because of a condition on my card that game me an extra point.

We ended the night with Alien Frontiers, one that I hadn’t played before. Using dice that represent your space ships, you try to terraform and colonize a planet. As usual with a new game, it took a few turns before I got the hang of it. It was a neck-and-neck race to the end and I wound up tying for first. Great game and I look forward to playing it again sometime since I understand it a bit better now.

Alien Frontiers
Alien Frontiers

Saturday:

SEWARD GAME NIGHT!

Seward Game Night
Seward Game Night! Look at all the gamers! How are you not here?

On the second Saturday of every month, the library at Concordia College in Seward hosts a game night from 6:00 PM to midnight. It’s a fantastic way to meet other gamers, learn some new games and introduce people to some of your favorites.

I got there a little late and spent some time looking over some games that people were selling (it was a one time event so folks could trim their collections). Some folks arrived even later than me and invited me to join them for Five Tribes. In this game, you move meeples (little people-shaped pieces) around in order to gain bonuses or claim empty tiles for scoring. You have resources you can gather and even djinns that can help you. I really like this game and the mechanic of moving meeples is a fun puzzle to work out. No surprise that I came in third out of four players.

Five Tribes
Five Tribes

We moved to Splendor next. In this game, you gather chips representing gemstones that you use to purchase other, permanent, gemstones. Some are worth points and the person with the most points wins. Pretty easy game to learn, but really fun trying to work out the best way to gather points. We actually played four games and I won a couple.

Fun story about one game: one player (Player 1) was gathering rubies to try and get one particular card. As such, that meant the rest of us couldn’t get rubies, which was really frustrating. A mechanic of the game is that on your turn you can ‘reserve’ a card. On Player 1’s turn, they purchased a card that finally game them enough rubies to buy that particular card. On my turn, I reserved the card they were building towards buying. Yes, I’m a jerk. The rest of the table applauded my bold move as Player 1 glared at me. Fortunately looks do not kill.

Splendor
Splendor

The evening was wrapped up with Hanabi, a game where you have a hand of cards that you use to try and construct fireworks. The catch? You can’t look at your cards, but everyone else can. You give hints to other players to help them figure out what they have so they can play the correct card on the correct stack at the right time. There were four of us playing and I was the only that had played before. Little bit of a learning curve for the newer players, but we did pretty well, considering.

Hanabi
Hanabi

Sunday:

That’s five nights of gaming in a row! Relish it, folks, because it doesn’t happen often.

I was invited over to a friend’s house, but responsibilities had to be tended to first. By the time I got there, four people were about halfway through a game of Cross Hares: Testing Ground. This is a new game to me that plays 2 – 4. However, they didn’t want me just sitting around doing nothing, so they went ahead and dropped me in.

It’s an interesting game that I don’t fully understand. You play a rabbit that’s been mutated or augmented in some way who is on a journey to a factory. Along the way there are events and obstacles that slow, or even reverse, your movement. Sometimes those obstacles come from a deck; sometimes from other players. I look forward to trying it out again as it seems pretty fun, even though I was in last place by a fairly large margin.

Cross-Hares
Cross-Hares

The night came to a close with a game of Alien Frontiers. We played this on Friday night, so I was wanting to give it another spin to see how well I would do now that I had a better understanding of the game. Apparently it didn’t help.

Four of us playing this time and there was a lot of back and forth throughout the game, but I couldn’t quite get things to click and wound up tying for last place. It’s lots of fun, though and I’m definitely wanting to play it again.

Alien Frontiers
Alien Frontiers

All in all, a great few days of gaming with some great, fun people.

If you’re interested in learning about playing games like these, let me know and we’ll see about setting up a game night.

Still getting in the habit of snapping a quick photo at the end of the games, so I missed a few opportunities. I’ll get better about it!

Happy gaming, everyone!

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