Posts from January 2012.

Twitter Tuesday


My cat either has a hairball or is telling me to buy a kayak.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


Whenever you hear a bell, an angel gets his wings. Whenever you hear Bohemian Rhapsody, a DJ gets to pee.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


My yoga studio will be called NOTHIN’ BUT CHILD’S POSE!
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


I like being a father because I can hang crude crayon drawings in my office without people realizing that they’re mine.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


Email from my son’s teacher: “Friday is superhero day & costumes are encouraged”. For one glorious moment I thought I was reading work mail.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


People who are chipper in the morning ought to be placed in one.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like no one is watching. Take advice like it’s not stupid.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


How much do you want to bet that the solar panels Obama is promoting are just refurbished death panels? #sotu
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


If I owned a coal mine I would spend every working hour calling up contractors and yelling, “Shaft … can you dig it?!”
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


I can’t get blood from a stone, but I can get toothpaste from a seemingly empty tube for about a month.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin

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The 2012 Make-Yer-Own Oscar Pool Page

The 2012 Make-Yer-Own Oscar Pool Page is live. Please please let me know if you encounter bugs, typos, or miscellaneous weirdness.

Some random thoughts and observations as I was getting this online:

  • The Academy Awards has their own “DIY Oscar Pool” thing going this year, at http://oscar.go.com/mypicks. I’m sure it’s waaay slicker than what I have to offer but, alas, also appears to be one of those unholy Facebook hybrids. Buyer beware.
  • I have seen zero of the “Best Picture” nominations as of the date of their announcement, something I don’t believe has ever happened before. Even as a Peace Corps volunteer I saw The English Patient in the year of its release.
  • Speaking of Best Picture nominations, are you seriously telling me that they are only nine? The Academy expanded the field from five to ten in a transparent move to goose ticket sales, and now can’t even scrape together enough films to fill the available slots? It’s piracy that is killing the industry, truly.
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And Then There Were Nine

The little finger on my right hand still hurts, more than a week after I bent it backward in a sledding accident. I am beginning to think I should see a doctor. But, when they ask “reason for visit”, I don’t know if I can bring myself to say “pinky”.

Also, if it atrophies and falls off, I am totally going to tell people I was in the Yakuza. This possibility is factoring into my decision more than it probably should.

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Risk: Legacy

The Disclaimer

I wouldn’t consider anything in this review to be a spoiler, and I’m about as spoilerphobic a guy as you are likely to meet. But spoilers are in the eye of the beholder, so caveat emptor. If you are really worried, skip the section entitled “The Playtest”.

Why does a board game review requires a spoiler warning? Read on.


Beastmen wrasslin’ robots. What’s not to love?

The Hook

Every once in a while an extraordinary idea galvanizes the board game community. Dominion, for instance, introduced (or, rather, refined) the idea of a game centered on deck building, and dozens of games utilizing this mechanism have since been released. Before that it was the idea of “worker placement”, pioneered by the seminal Caylus.

Risk Legacy, the newest version of the classic war game, is built around such an idea, though it would be more accurate to describe the premise as “polarizing” than “galvanizing”. Reaction to the announcement of the game ranged from accolades to derision, and spirited debates abounded months before it was published. But no one, not even that game’s fiercest critics, could deny that the central conceit of the game is extraordinary–and perhaps even brilliant.

Here’s the hook: as you play Risk: Legacy, the game changes. I don’t mean in the conventional sense of gameplay evolving as players become more experienced; I mean the game literally, physically changes. The components include an assortment of stickers, which players use to irrevocably alter play: stickers affixed to the board forever enhance or mar the topography, stickers added to cards permanently revise their value and utility, and so forth.

But wait, as they say: there’s more. The rules frequently ask–demand!–that players take up Sharpies and annotate the board, to name continents, record events, and immortalize victories by scrawling their John Hancock on the “Winner’s List”.

Some events require that cards be removed from the game. This is not uncommon–many games ask you to “take cards out of play” by setting them aside or returning them to the box; only in Risk: Legacy are you told to do so by ripping them into confetti and then tossing them in the trash. The horror.

The upshot of all this is that, after your first game, you are playing on a board unlike any other in existence, with cities positioned according to your whims, locations named by your opponents, and cards customized per the preferences of your game group. And that’s just the beginning. The Risk: Legacy box contains a number of sealed packets and compartments, which are only opened when specific conditions are met (e.g., a single player wins his second game). Opening a cache may introduce to the mix new cards, new stickers, new rules, and even new pieces (maybe! I don’t even know!). The game was designed to be played at least 15 times, preferably with the same group of people.

It’s difficult to overstate how anathema this is to many gamers, for whom even minor wear on the edges of a card is a travesty on par with the Hindenburg. The idea of defacing cards on purpose has some railing about the impending tsunami of “disposable games”, even though Risk: Legacy is, to date, the only game featuring this innovation.

Me? I’m a sucker for a gimmick. I had to have it.


Sealed packets introduce new elements into the game as milestones are reached

The Game

Risk: Legacy is … well, it’s Risk, albeit Risk with a science-fiction theme and a 100-word backstory so ridiculous that it was apparently dashed it off in the moments before the game went to press. As in the original, the map depicts Earth divided into 48 Territories, into which players place Troops. On a turn a player selects a Territory he occupies and commits a number of Troops to attacking an adjacent space owned by an opponent. Dice are rolled and Troops are removed; when the defender’s Territory is vacant the attacker moves in and can continue his conquest. At the end of a turn in which a player took at least one Territory he receives a card, and these cards may later be redeemed to receive bonus Troops.

That’s what’s the same; the biggest difference between Risk: Legacy and its progenitor are the victory conditions. In the classic Risk, a player only wins after systematically eliminating all of his opponents and controlling every Territory on the board, a process that typically takes three or four or seven hours. Here, the goal is simply to obtain four Red Stars. Each player begins play with a Headquarters, and ownership of an HQ is worth one Red Star. Much of the game revolves around the battle for these HQs, as control of four–regardless of to whom they initially belonged–wins the game.

There are, of course, lots of additional tweaks to the original design. But the game is much more Risk than not.


We watch in irritation as J. prepares for war

The Playtest

Four of us gathered Sunday evening to break in my copy of Risk: Legacy; we conscripted our host’s 13-year-old daughter to fill the fifth position.

I am, and always have been, a fan of Risk, even though I dislike the player elimination and find the playing time to be entirely too long. Some of my fellow players are less charitable to the original game. But we all enjoyed this latest incarnation.

We played the game three times in a row, in the space of perhaps two and a half hours. Early games go quick; until a player has won at least one game he begins with a free Red Star in addition to his starting HQ, and therefore needs only two more points to win. (The length of future games increase as, one by one, players require three Red Stars beyond their starting HQ for victory instead of two.)

The “gimmick” of the game–that of altering the components as you play–has real strategic implications. Early in game one, for instance, I applied a “bunker” sticker to Greenland, which gave the Territory a defensive advantage; as a result, Greenland became a good place for a player to hunker down in the second and third game. Another player used stickers to increase the value of the China card, turning the corresponding Territory into a resource coveted by all.

As one of my opponents observed, the brevity of the game lends itself to bolder play; if you take a gamble and fail, you will only suffer the consequences for another 20 minutes or so. In other words, this version of Risk actually encourages its namesake, and the game is more exciting for it.

We opened our first sealed packet at the end of our third game, to reveal new cards and rules. I won’t describe them, but I’ll confess to looking forward to our next match, eager to see how they affect play. The premise of Risk: Legacy–that of a game that evolves as you play it–appears to work exactly as intended.


Because my opponents wanted to start in China, and the rules disallow starting in a Territory with a sticker, I founded the city of Skruyu.

The Verdict

My policy is never to review a game until I have played it at least three times. In one sense I have fulfilled this obligation, having played Risk: Legacy thrice Sunday night. In another very real sense, though, I’ve only played a fifth of the game. With rules, cards, and pieces entering the game over the course of 15 plays, I still haven’t experienced everything it has to offer.

Given my previous statement, that I like Risk except for the player elimination and the long playing time, it stands to reason that I would enjoy a version of Risk that has neither. And I did, quite a bit. I remain unconvinced that my enthusiasm won’t wane before we reach game 15, though. An alternative peril, since the game is designed to be played by the same group week after week, is that I will want to play through to the end, but that one or more of my colleagues will eventually beg off.

Of course the “evolution” element is designed to address this, to goose the replayablity of what is at heart a pretty simple game. Whether it succeeds remains to be seen–we have another play session on the books for next Sunday, and I will report back after.

If I make it through game 15, what will I do with Risk: Legacy then? Maybe just toss it out; by that point the board will be covered with graffiti, the cards will have been defiled and destroyed, and, for all I know, I may be instructed to set fire to the box at some point. You might think that $50 for a game you’ll only play 15 times is a total rip-off, and many are making this very argument. But honestly, 15 plays ain’t bad for a game, especially one that can provide a unique experience. I don’t regret my purchase yet and, based on what I’ve seen so far, do not anticipate doing so.

You can find more information on Risk: Legacy on its Boardgamegeek entry, and even read a PDF of the rules online. Risk: Legacy is available on Amazon, Funagain, and elsewhere.

The Update

Rob Daviau, the designer of Risk: Legacy, responds via Twitter:


@ Thanks for the review; glad you are liking the game. The backstory took me at least 20 minutes, thank you very much.
@robdaviaugamer
robdaviaugamer


@ (Actually, game theming is deliberately vague to allow each group to fill in the history and details as they see fit.)
@robdaviaugamer
robdaviaugamer

Rob discusses his inspiration for the design in this NPR story.

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Ten Lines From the State of the Union Speech that are Improved by Mentally Inserting “Hand” Before “Jobs”

“Think about the America within our reach: a country that leads the world in educating its people, an America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs”

“If you’re a business that wants to outsource jobs, you shouldn’t get a tax deduction for doing it.”

“Technology made businesses more efficient, but also made some jobs obsolete.”

“A few weeks ago, the CEO of Master Lock told me that it now makes business sense for him to bring jobs back home.”

“Give more young people the chance to earn their way through college by doubling the number of work-study jobs in the next five years.”

“This country needs an all-out, all-of-the-above strategy that develops every available source of American energy – a strategy that’s cleaner, cheaper, and full of new jobs.”

“Join me in a national commitment to train two million Americans with skills that will lead directly to a job.”

“Tonight, my message to business leaders is simple: ask yourselves what you can do to bring jobs back to your country, and your country will do everything we can to help you succeed.”

“Michelle and Jill Biden have worked with American businesses to secure a pledge of 135,000 jobs for veterans and their families.”

“We should support everyone who’s willing to work; and every risk-taker and entrepreneur who aspires to become the next Steve Jobs.”

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Before You Ask …

The 2012 Make Yer Own Oscar Pool Page will go live next Monday, January 30th.

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The Necronomicon

This post is part of the H. P. Lovefest.

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defective yeti on Twitter

If you are still checking this site (??) but don’t follow me on Twitter, you may wish to do so. That is where I have been “writing” recently, if thumb-typing jokes into a phone can be construed as such.


In protest of SOPA I haven’t updated my blog in like six years.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin

That said, I have some new content lined up for dy soon, including a review of Risk Legacy (a new version of the classic wargame with perhaps the craziest gimmick I’ve ever seen), and the resumption of the H. P. Lovefest (in preparation for my article on the author).

Until then, here’s some wiseassery to tide you over.


I adopted an “all paper” strategy in Rock, Paper, Scissors tournaments and have been making money hand over fist.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


I’d be less likely to think “isn’t it ironic?” than “why the fuck did I buy 10,000 spoons?”
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


I always look sad in posed photos because my father was killed by cheese.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


Mark wrote books and Shania wrote songs and never the Twain shall meet.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


I need a smartphone with a built-in breathalyzer that can disable the Amazon mobile app.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


A good rule of thumb is one per hand.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


I’ll vote for whichever presidential candidate promises a 50’s-era Superman movie starring Jon Hamm.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


I opened a Stationary Store, but can’t seem to move any merchandise.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


I was going to buy one of those dancing video games but remembered that I already own alcohol and an mp3 of Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend”.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


I was with my father yesterday and he said something really insightful. Probably. I don’t know, I was dicking around with my phone.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


Try my new mixed drink, the Resolution Backslide. It’s one part weight-loss shake, one part Kahlúa.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin


If 2012 is “the year the world ends”, 2011 is surely “the year everyone became pretty much okay with that”.
@matthewbaldwin
Matthew Baldwin

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