Other Wise

Negotiated dissection

Attempting a taxonomy of negotiation:

Open Negotiation

Free-form done through conversation and persuasion. Open Negotiation is unbounded/unconstrained and is frequently only incidentally related to direct/current in-game concerns (what tokens are where, what permissions are granted etc) and is generally much more interested in establishing consensus on mutual policies and long-term collusive patterns. Diplomacy is perhaps the titular grandfather of Open Negotiation in game design. The key elements are primary focus of the negotiation is to persuade another player to pro-actively collude (Will you do XYZ for me?), and while the focus of the negotiation is informed by the game, the majority of the negotiation content is meta to the game details.

Simple Negotiation

Frequently tactical and usually directly informed by and concerning current game specifics and the disposition of specific game tokens. The most common forms are simple requests for permission or abeyance. May I do QRS? or If I do ABC will you not attack me? The key element is direct focus on and discussion of game particulars (and thus a rather tactical focus). Questions of policy and long-term collusive patterns are not part of Simple Negotiation.

Implicit Negotiation

In short, where moves are offers. Moves, independently arrived at by the players, without discussion, for negotiative patterns due to common understandings of collusive self-interest which emerge from the game-play. Gun-boat1 no-press2 Diplomacy is the great-grand-daddy here. More recently Wabash Cannonball has epitomised this model3.

Personal views

I am generally not a fan of Open Negotiation in games, rather like Simple Negotiation as (exemplified by such games as Lords of the Spanish Main, Quo Vadis and Traders of Genoa) and adore Implicit Negotiation (eg Wabash Cannonball, Pampas Railroads, or King of Siam).

  1. Diplomacy where the identity of the players is known only to the GM/Judge.
  2. Players can’t communicate with each other, they can only write orders. Much negotiation still occurs, but via orders which suggest cooperation between players. The most frequent form of such a move-as-offer are support orders which suggest a future move or alliance to a potential ally. Support into/or around Switzerland are the most famous in this regard.
  3. eg Capitalisation actions are usually either (mute) requests for a partner or an attempt to sunder a too-successful partnership.

Existentially reliant parasites

A while back Jacob Butcher finally categorised me, You like negotiation games! He’s right of course and I especially like them when the negotiation is implicit instead of explicit, or to quote a more recent conversation with another friend, Where your moves are offers.

I love that idea. Moves are offers. Adorable. Juicy. It is likely that single characteristic, married tightly to a raw game theory core1, is what has so attracted me to Wabash Cannonball. Moves as offers.

So I’ve been thinking for about a week now, mulling around ideas surrounding moves as offers and trying to see what sort of game could be wrapped on that skein. The working concept, which is weak, is a game in which each player has 1/Nth of a limited resource in the game and every move they either offer (partial) access to their stock to one or more other players, or exploits the access that others have offered while also offering access in return. All terribly vague, but the core sense is a sort of dance of offers and engagement and commitment and perhaps even betrayal. The obvious comparables are So Long Sucker and Intrige, but I’d like something far more implicit than those fine stalwarts, as well as far more implicit than explicit.

So far I’ve come up with…nothing. Which is fine for this stage as the thought toy has been delightful, but I’d would like to tangible realise this idea. Sadly inspiration has fled. Still, the thought toy is so charming, so very Mary Poppins in every possible very nearly perfect way.

  1. I introduced a new chap to the SVB gaming group on Tuesday, a rather RPGish sort. Mid-way through the chat he said, “Oh, you’re a game theory guy!” Uhh, yeah. So I taught him King of Siam and Wabash Cannonball.

Effusive incoherence

I’m not getting to play with Muck & Brass as much as I’d like lately — Lords of the Spanish Main is occupying too much of my attention — so a little disclosure seems in order: Rules for Muck & Brass!

I also give you the brief graphical evolution of Muck & Brass:

Scratch pasta and sauce

  • Pasta ([[penne|penne]] is more traditional but it really doesn’t matter)
  • Tomatoes (I use a 2:1 ratio of diced tomatoes and whole plum tomatoes)
  • Bacon or thin-sliced ham (I use bacon scraps and hand-remove all the fat to produce semi-ham)
  • Olives (I prefer oil-cured black kalamata olives but green also work)
  • Rosemary (a little goes a long way)
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Chop the meat into little bits and then heat until cooked but still limp (not crisp or chewy!). Drain the fat. Quickly chop and brown the rosemary in the bottom of a saucepan along with the garlic and a little olive oil. Chop or slice the olives and dump the meat, tomatoes, olives and rosemary into the pan with the rosemary and garlic, and stew until the diced tomatoes have lost most of their consistency. Salt to taste. When ready, dump over freshly cooked pasta (a little [[al dente|al dente]] is good — the chewiness adds structure and makes it easier to eat).

While great hot and fresh, the final dish also refrigerates well and improves in flavour over time as the flavours meld. If you’ve picky kids, lower the rosemary and olive proportions. If you’re like me, up the rosemary and olives. If you want to (deliciously) experiment, coarsely cube and brown some [[aubergine|aubergine]] on the side and dump into the mix right before the end.

A failure to communicate

The tool I’ve been using to footnote definitions of terms some readers may not know has a problem. It can result in broken RSS and Atom feeds which don’t validate, usually due to non-UTF8 characters in strings which are defined as UTF8 strings. In turn this causes various RSS readers and aggregators (eg Bloglines and Technorati) to fail to import the feed. Ooops.

For now I’ve removed the offending definition linkages ([[suet|suet]] and [[jocund|jocund]]) and am on the lookout for a replacement WordPress plugin, preferably one based on dict1.

  1. I’m a frequent, nay, near-constant user of dict.

The fabled return of the pastie

Tinners’ Trail, while otherwise an ignorable game, reminded me of the noble pastie and what a fine food it is.

Basic ingredients:

  • Pie dough (pre mixed sheets from the store or make your own with all-purpose flour, salt, water and a little lard or butter)
  • Rutabega (aka swedes — it isn’t a pastie if it doesn’t have rutabega)
  • Potato (I like small quartered reds with the skins on)
  • Onion (I prefer strong yellow but red will also work)
  • Meat (I opted for hamburger, but chopped steak, stew beef, chicken, turkey, ham or pretty much any other lumps of dead animal will work)
  • Fatty meat. (I used ground pork but sausage or [[suet|suet]] will work and many prefer the arguably more traditional suet)
  • Salt & pepper

Optional ingredients:

  • Lamb instead of or mixed with the beef
  • Beef stock (helps stick it together, adds salt and a little flavour)
  • Celery (leave the leaves on)
  • Parsley
  • Mushrooms
  • Most anything else that might be tasty. A little rosemary can go very well for instance.

Ratios are very flexible. Use suet instead of the pork if you want a more traditional (and tastier) pastie. I used roughly two parts beef to one part pork to five parts potatoes to two parts rutabega and one part celery. Next time I’ll probably decrease the total meat proportion as I’m a little tired of meat-heavy/centric meals. I might also throw in a few other vegetables like turnips or cabbage or anything else I can think of just for variation (ObNote: carrots are traditionally verboten).

Precision is not important in the world of pasties — variation is the spice of life. Chop or cube the vegetables. Don’t worry about keeping it small, just whack them about a bit with a knife. Mix everything except the dough into a gooey mass. Salt, pepper and other spices to taste. Parsley is good. Don’t bother with keeping the mix even as distribution variations are tasty. Roll the dough out into circles around 30cm or so in diameter (precision is not important), or use pie dough that has already been formed into circles. Don’t roll the dough too thin; 3mm or so is fine. The dough needs to be thick enough to solidly hold the final contents. Dump of big glob of goo-mix near the centre of a dough circle and fold it over to make a half-circle with the lump in the middle. Thickly fold over and crimp the edges. If needed (depends on the dough), brush the edges before and after with water or butter/lard to make them stick together better. Prick the top in several places to allow steam to escape. Bake for around an hour at around 180C (350F).

Pasties can be made very quickly. 30 minutes from ingredients to oven is reasonable. A quick google search will return scores of variations on the above base. Some of the vegetarian curry pasties are especially good.

Eat hot or cold. Some like them plain or with catsup or hot sauce; it is all good. Eat by hand like a slice of watermelon, holding onto the thick crimped edge and eating out the filled centre. I made a bunch on Sunday evening and ate them all week for lunch. They were great.

Winsome Games’ 2008 Essen Collection — Order Line


John Bohrer has kindly consented to allow me to act as a broker for this year’s Winsome Games’ Essen Collection. The 2008 Essen Collection is only available as a set of 4 game titles. The games cannot be ordered individually. Quoting Winsome Game’s release materials:

  1. Eddie Robin’s “Gulf, Mobile & Ohio” is an innovative new boardgame with no luck factor. This game takes place in the Southern US 1830-1850 where many small and large railroads sprang up, starting in 1830. Players charter railroads, build track, sell common stock and vie for connections in cities with other railroads. This game is for 3-5 players for about 1 hour.

  2. Harry Wu’s “Preußische Ostbahn” introduces an innovative new Player Order mechanism. Preußische Ostbahn is set in old Germany, 1840-1870. Eight historic Railroads create the network that bound the Germanies together. Each has a special characteristic, based upon its history. This game is for 3-5 players for about 90 minutes.

  3. The Age of Steam: Texas, Oklahoma & New Mexico Expansion happens in the Wild West. This expansion introduces two new Actions: Ranching and Cattle Drive and it also includes 32 Cattle cubes. The expansion is for 3-6 players, for about 2 hours.

  4. Harry Wu’s Wabash Cannonball: Erie Railroad expansion adds another railroad to Harry’s original Wabash Cannonball game. The Erie Railroad had an important influence in the history of this period of American railroad expansion. The expansion uses the base Wabash Cannonball game and allows the same number of players; it takes about the same time as the base game, maybe a few minutes longer.

If you are local to San Jose California and can collect the game directly from me, please use the following payment button to order the 2008 Essen Collection (US$130 + $5 S&H):

If you are elsewhere in the continental USA or Canada, please select the following payment button to order the 2008 Essen Collection (US$130 + US$15 S&H):

For buyers in the rest of the world, please select the following payment button to order the 2008 Essen Collection (US$130 + US$25 S&H):

I only have access to 100 copies, total. It is likely they will sell out quickly. If you are going to order 3 or more copies and would like to save on S&H, please place multiple orders above and then contact me on BoardGameGeek (user: clearclaw) or via email at my PayPal account address so that I may calculate the correct S&H for you and refund the difference.

The games will be packed and shipped by the most economical methods available. Orders for foreign countries with known package/postal problems will be heavily taped. Customs forms will identify the contents as media. Please be aware that the clamshell polystyrene cases may be damaged in shipping. This is a risk of the economical shipping method used. I will be shipping the games in a padded envelope but some postal services can be surprisingly rough. Shipping in a more protective box would more than double the S&H costs and due to lack of interest in previous brokered orders, is not available for this collection. I will have a small number of replacement cases available for shipping damages. I will receive and ship the games some time after the Essen trade fair in October. Estimated shipping time from here to your door is 7-10 days within the continental USA and 2-3 weeks for international addresses. Progress and updates for the group order will be made as comments to this post. Please subscribe to the RSS feed linked in the bar to the right if you’d like to keep up to date.