SUNDAY, JUNE 26, 2005
Fun in North Carolina

Since my parents were coming to Wisconsin this summer for a visit, we decided to take a trip to North Carolina to see Matt and Sarah this weekend, since we wouldn't see them again until Thanksgiving. We hadn't seen just them in a few visits, so it was fun to find good restaurants and play with the kids together. We especially enjoyed seeing the Discovery Museum downtown, exploring all the exhibits and fun optical shows. They had a large set of bells you could play, and some infinity mirrors, as well as a few mechanical demonstrations of lift and force. We enjoyed seeing the aquarium section, and Matt and I played computerized soccer on the Virtual Reality screen for a while, until they pelted us with soccer balls, and Will joined in on the volleyball game. After a quick trip through the Grossatorium, we spent time in the kids hall playing with blocks and watching Sam go down slides. We had some ice cream for a desert, and look forward to seeing them again soon, it seems less stressful when there aren't so many people around or an organized holiday celebration.

Posted by Mark @ 10:22 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

Becoming Sherpas

Game night tonight was Matt Lavine, Matt Anderson, Mike and Kathleen and Laura and myself. Matt had just returned from a trip to Paris, and as he was in the area, I asked him to pick up Himalaya, one of the contenders for this year's Spiel des Jahres. He found it in a little game shop after lunch one day and said it was the one souvenier he brought back except pictures. Well, we just had to break it open and play it tonight then, even though it was for 4 people, we merged into teams to make things work. Each of us was a Sherpa in the mountains, planning out our trips before each month, and then executing the plans to pick up goods and fulfill orders around the himalayan mountains. It's a lot of fun to try and outguess your opponents and pick up the valuable cubes, and there was an interesting mechanism to have balance be the key to victory. After 12 months of journeying, Matt Anderon emerged the victor, and we look forward to playing again soon.

Posted by Mark @ 10:22 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

SUNDAY, JUNE 19, 2005
Protospiel 2005 Wrap-up

It was time for my annual journey to Michigan for Protospiel 2005 this week. Matt Anderson couldn't make it, he was attending a wedding, but Brett was willing to make the trek. We packed up our prototypes and headed out Wednesday evening, arriving late at the hotel in East Lansing, but early enough to find Jeph and Beau in the neighboring room, ready to play some prototypes. We played a round of Port Dover and then Die Wichtelmanner, had some (accidentally) light beer and then headed off to bed.

The next few days blurred together because of so much gaming and playtesting, but it was a blast. I played about 17 different prototypes, ranging from abstract games to themed games about the war of 1812. It was great to see all the other designers and some faces I recognized from last year, as well as meet some new friends. All the games had a spark that you could see was worth pursuing. There were two group design sessions, where I first worked with Beau and another Mark on "Sheepdoggin'," a dexterity game about sheep herding, and then a large committee-designed project about Vikings and beavers, which broke down after there were a few too many details, but it was really interesting to see how everyone came up with a design differently. I really enjoyed playing Joe's Zen gardening game, Mark's Castle raiding game and Mike's chess/wizard combination partnership game, there was such a variety of designs. I was able to get a few of my designs played, since they're short, and the feedback was great. I wish I could playtest like this all the time, and I'm already looking forward to next year's trip.

Posted by Mark @ 10:21 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

Gardening at Hoofers

Mark is still in Michigan playtesting games, so I headed out to Hoofers Equestrian center to help with their gardens. Last night I dug up a large number of our plants (oregano, onions, daylilies) and put them in my car- with the cool of night, they looked quite well until this morning.

We started on the shade garden, next to a little patio and put in some wild ginger, hostas, and shade-loving wildflowers. After a bit of mulch and some in-depth watering, the plot looked wonderful. We all headed into the lounge for some sugar rush (I brough Rice Crispy Treats) and then headed out to the "new flower bed" location by the covered arena. Now this may sound like it would have been an easy job, but it was not. Three times previously, the area was packed to prevent erosion- but none of us knew this going in.

After 2 hours we were exahusted and a bit discouraged, we cleared a 2x4" area but had much more to go. Breaking for lunch we discussed the issue and learned some more tid-bits about the equestrian center. Around 2pm I headed home and took it easy for the rest of the day.

Posted by Laura @ 10:20 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

Garden Maintenance

With the start of school, Mark is heading off to protospiel with a prototype buddy and I am heading out to the garden. This year we have our work cut out for us. With all of the rain, we haven't been able to get much work done. Yesterday I tackled the future okra patch, today I finished that and moved on to the lily row. Slowly I am making my way to the front where our flower patch lies.

Posted by Laura @ 10:19 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

MONDAY, JUNE 13, 2005

Today I started teaching my summer class- Machine Programming. I have taught this course for the three previous summers and am looking forward to making some changes and trying out some new ideas, one big project I just finished was my new course website- check it out

To celebrate my first day of work and my summer job, we headed to Bluephies. Mark heard about this restaurant from his advisor, Jude, and it was a great pick. Our favorite was the bread and butter appetizer- you have never had butter like this- it had a mixture of kalamata olives, cream cheese, and sun dried tomatoes- I can't wait to try it at home (we got two helpings). Mark got a tomato rich pasta dish and I got a wild mushroom pasta dish with a large assortment of herbs (basil, rosemary, pepper) with lovely wavy fettuccini.

Posted by Laura @ 10:19 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

Garage Sale Finds

Here in Madison, there are wonderful subdivision garage sales. Mark and I have really been into hitting the garage sales this year- and our hard work is paying off. This time we headed to the west side and found a mother selling some of her son's old hiking gear. Fortunately he is about the same height as I am and we got a wonderful deal on a great backpack for our future trip to Germany (Yeah).

Posted by Laura @ 10:18 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

FRIDAY, JUNE 10, 2005
Usonian Games Meeting

Tonight was another gathing of the Usonian Game crew. Brett, Clyde, Jerry and I met at Brett's place for some freewheeling game design, and the discussions ranged far and wide. We first tried to see what we could devise for the latest BGDF design competition, where the requirements were a UFO theme, tile laying, and a group vote somehow. Crop circles, black ops, probe battleship, and other ideas were floated, with nothing really sticking but we had a great time just being creative. Brett and Clyde went off for pizza, Jerry and I almost played a game of Gene Pool before they got back, and then everyone joined in for a round of Ultra-Violets. As usual, a cleaner game than before, but still has hiccups. We'll see if the doctors at Protospiel can give it a good diagnosis to see if there's anything promising. Brett and I are heading out Wednesday, should be a fun weekend, wish Laura could come along but she's teaching all week.

Posted by Mark @ 10:17 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

Last Chance to Playtest

After last week's big night, it was a quiet night for games this tuesday. Matt and Kathleen joined us, so we brought out Modern Art for some wheeling and dealing auctions. The open bidding auctions can be frustrating but a lot of fun, not knowing how high the other player is willing to go to spoil your bid. Kathleen headed out early, so we playtested the latest incarnation of Schism. I always feel the game is getting better but there's still so much left to do, and it's hard to make all the changes without seeing how the game plays. If only I could playtest regularly, I could get the kinks out of my games faster and make them better. The compile time is so slow.

Posted by Mark @ 10:16 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

SUNDAY, JUNE 5, 2005
A BBQ w/ friends

Matt Anderson is back in town for a while, after his stint working for North Star Games in Maryland this past year and then going to Puerto Rico. To celebrate, he cooked up some fine chicken and beef and invited us all over to eat! We spent time sitting outside in his back yard (ahh, back yards, someday I'll have one, and a nice chair, ooh, that'd be great) just talking and swapping stories of our lives. Burr and I stuck around at the end to play Ingenious, a new Reiner Knizia game about matching colored double hexagons to score points. Not a shred of theme, but a great game, as your final score is your lowest color, forcing you to try to play evenly. We played two times and called it a night, saving Power Grid and Amun-Re for another night.

Posted by Mark @ 10:15 AM CDT [Permanent URL]

Jenga, Jenga!

It was a light night for games tonight, but a large number of people, up to 7! We started with a four-player game of Modern Art with Kathleen and Ben, buying and selling valuable pieces of crappy art, but boy does it look good when someone else is buying it. There's a lot of good decisions in this game, with the mix of what auction to use when, which artist to sell, and how to influence the setup of the prices as the game progresses. It's a lot of game for a small package. In the meantime, Matt, Burr and Natalie played a quick game of San Juan. We all rejoined at the end of the night to play two games of Jenga, stacking higher and higher. Our copy doesn't have the smoothest of pieces, so they get stuck more often than not, making for a more interesting game. The tension built and we all had fun watching the final stack fall.

Posted by Mark @ 10:14 AM CDT [Permanent URL]