Classic Dishes...

Quone: To Quone Something

I play Scrabulous on Facebook. I’m far from the best Scrabble player in the universe, but it’s fun and the folks I play aren’t so much better than me that I don’t enjoy the game.

Anyhow, a friend starts up a new game with me yesterday, and I click the link to look at the game. My opening rack is:


If we’re using the Howard Dean wordlist, I’ve got a bingo.

Boardwalk With Four Houses: Priceless?

Before we start, here, let me state that I used to be a big Monopoly fan. A lot of my childhood memories focus around weekends sitting around the board with my friends, playing the game with MTV on in the background. (You know, back when MTV played music.) I even have a couple of books on Monopoly strategy. Eventually, though, I got turned on to European-style board games and realized that there was a whole world of decently-thought-out games that I was missing out on. So I don’t play Monopoly anymore.

That said, I offer this, from the Signs Of The Apocalypse Department: Monopoly is getting rid of the money.

Yep. In a special version of the game coming out soon, the $15,140 ($30,280 in the Deluxe Editions) in that classic paper money will be replaced with debit cards and a calculator doohickey that the Banker will use to perform all monetary transactions. Oh, and all of this is sponsored by your friends at Visa, who are Everywhere You Want To Be. (Page…two!)

Now, Monopoly isn’t a good game anyhow, but I don’t see this doing anything other than making it worse. Consider the following scenario: I land on the Reading Railroad, which is owned by Bob, and Bob owns a total of three railroads. In the classic game, here’s what happens:

  1. I hand Bob a $100 bill.

In this version, here’s what happens:

  1. I hand the Banker my debit card.
  2. Banker plugs my card into doohickey, deducts $100, returns card.
  3. Bob hands the Banker his debit card.
  4. Banker plugs Bob’s card into doohickey, adds $100, returns card.

Because Monopoly needs MORE bookkeeping. I know when I’m sitting around the table, I think to myself, “Ya know, I’m enjoying this utterly random, overly political, completely fiddly game, but there just isn’t enough tedium in the financial transactions! If only there were a way we could make an annoying process even more painful!”

On the upside, I suppose this could potentially have a hand in killing off the Free Parking jackpot

They Write Themselves, Volume 2

Hey, sorry I haven’t written anything in a while. Let’s just say it’s been an…interesting month. As in the old Chinese curse: “May you live in interesting times.”

Fortunately, every so often items come along that are too good to pass up. The Four Of You know (often because you’re the ones playing them with me) that I’m a big fan of board games. And a lot of the games I play are European in origin, which means that on occasion the language used in the game’s directions, cards, and such is not English. Sometimes the language barrier requires a little more effort to play a game, and sometimes, the game is abstract enough that it doesn’t make a difference. The latter is the case with Reiner Knizia’s Einfach Genial, which was published in Europe last year. The English translation is “Simply Ingenious”, but the name given to it in the English-speaking parts of Europe is “Mensa Connections”. It is an excellent game, and was one of the five finalists for the 2004 Spiel des Jahres, one of the higher honors that can be bestowed upon a board game.

The Four Of You have probably heard of Mensa, the society open to people who can score in the top 2% in a standardized intelligence test. I have some opinions about this group, and to a wider extent about intelligence tests as a whole, but they aren’t really germane to this piece, so we’ll save them for another time. (Suffice it to say I’m not a member. By choice.)

At any rate, each year a bunch of them get together and play a boatload of games and decide which of them are fit to carry their “Mensa Select” seal, which means they think that those chosen are good games for smart people to play or something. (Where I come from, Select is the rating given to beef that isn’t good enough to be Choice or Prime.)

(I further feel compelled to point out that if you were to take the top 10 games for a given time period as voted on by the Mensa folks, and the top 10 games for that same period voted on by the knowledgable gaming community at large, the lists would differ significantly. Infer what you will from that.)

Anyhow, I direct you to a letter to the editor of the Seattle Weekly, for the week of December 8-14, 2004:

An interesting concept [Gift Guide 2: Mind, Body, Spirit, “Play, Einstein!” Dec. 1]. Unfortunately, Roger Downey missed a major opportunity. Had he gone to the site of American Mensa ( instead of British Mensa, he would have found information about Mind Games and some 75 games Mensans have tested and designated as Mensa Select over the past 16 years. The list includes such games as Apples to Apples, Scategories, the Poll Game (made in Seattle), and many, many more.

The board game he mentions, “Mensa Connections,” cannot be sold in the United States under our licensing agreement. We tested it last year at our games competition and found it wanting. We did not want the Mensa name on the game in this country.

Jim Blackmore
National Marketing Director,
American Mensa, Ltd.

Thank God for the people of Mensa, for preventing me the unspeakable horror of playing substandard mind-rotting games! Oh, and Jim, if you happened across this in a vanity search, get off your damn high horse: The game can absolutely be sold in the States, and in fact has been available in German form for a year. Ya ever hear of this new concept called “importing”? (The fact that you misspelled “Scattergories” is another joke unto itself, but, again, I digress.)

So here’s the punchline: Apparently this year’s Mensa MindGames event came to a close today, and the list of the recipients of the oh-so-coveted Mensa Select rating made its way onto one of the gaming newsgroups I read.

One of the lucky winners? A new release entitled “Ingenious”. Which just happens to be the domestic version….of Einfach Genial.