Saturday, 25 February 2012

Casting off the shackles!

Well, it’s been more than a little while since my last post.  Typing with a plaster cast on one hand is a lesson in tedium as the mind is always working just slightly faster than the one hand can manage.  Additionally, the spelling of words, when one finally gets frustrated and tries to use the plaster clad hand, is largely erroneous as the cast manages to turn the hand into one giant club.  I’d have more luck trying to type using my head.  Getting a servant to type as I dictate is also out of the question, as I don’t have sufficient supplies of port to maintain the mystique required for dictation, and I get lost typing punctuation, let alone pausing mid-steam-of-consciousness to punctuate my sentences with the appropriate items. Thankfully my cast has now been removed - I am free to type with both hands as the inventor of the keyboard intended!

So, the rambling, spittle-flecked, introduction over I must now segue over to the meat of this post.  Talking about the segue is like talking about yourself in third person; a step removed from the natural order of things.

Speaking of speaking in third person, there are so many ‘International Days of...’ on the calendar I think we should start a new one, and for that 24 hour period you should only speak about yourself in the third person.  This could be the dawning of a new trend - perhaps the 3rd of the 3rd would be an appropriate date for such a day.
But what trendy name could it be given? The ‘International Day of Third Person’ lacks a certain level of dignity required of International Days.  Perhaps the ‘International Day of Omniscience’?  Even there - although it has a sweeter ring to it - it seems to ask quite a bit from the average participant.  ‘The Day of They’ is uncomplicated, and it rhymes, but could as easily be the name for the day where we remember the Space Lizards who secretly rule our world.  Curses, I’m one trendy name away from starting my very own International Day. C’est la vie - it’s an idea I shall have to revisit.

Well, that was meant to be a segue into Giles’ main topic, my main topic that is.  Life has been relatively busy here at the Castle - I’ve been entertaining myself by trying to open tins of chocolate powder and coffee with one hand - and probably look from a distance like an orangutan struggling with a bottle to vitamins.  In addition to these heady experiences school has gone back after the Summer/Christmas holidays - I am very much looking forward to seeing how the new year progresses.

In class I have been using the Playroom game ‘Number Chase’ as an introductory activity at the beginning of our maths lessons.  It’s a neat little game.  Essentially one player picks a secret number from those available (1-50).  Other players guess what the chosen number might be.  Simple enough so far.  Each guess that is incorrect flips that number card - and on the reverse of each card is a clue that helps narrow down the number range - clues are things like: Is it between 9-29? is it greater than 12? Is it an odd number? Does it have a ‘3’ in it? etc.  Gradually the possible numbers are narrowed to the point where the students are able to deduce what the secret number is.  One round - one secret number.  All students are able to participate by guessing.  When we play, it's usually for a couple of rounds - and doesn't take any more than 10-15 minutes all told.

Number Chase gets the students thinking of odd and even, of greater, smaller, in number ranges and generally about place value.  It’s not overly taxing - the idea is to provide a short warm up activity that is number based - and the kids have been enjoying it - the take turns being the player to have the secret number, so they all can feel involved in the game.

I have one of those hundreds charts hanging in my room with removable numbers - I have replaced the numbers 1-50 with the Number chase cards, so the hundreds chart functions exactly as normal, but has been ‘pimped out’ enough to allow the playing of the odd game as well.

Number Chase is a cheap little game - as are most of Playroom's range - and makes for a neat introductory activity.

In other gaming related happenings:

Recently my dear wife and I managed to both retain consciousness long enough into the evening to enjoy a game - it’s been a little while since we last played one - something we both enjoy immensely.  The game was Rivals of Catan, I have just recently received my copy of the expansion: The Rivals of Catan: Age of Darkness, and we managed to play through one of the expansion theme decks.

Briefly for those who aren’t aware: Rivals of Catan is a card game of collecting resources and using them to expand your ‘empire’, you build roads which allow you to build more settlements, you may upgrade settlements to cities, build special buildings and characters who then provide you with various bonuses and abilities and so forth.  The game is a card version of the famous Settlers of Catan - but just for two.  It is also a reimagining of the original Settlers of Catan the Card Game (which I haven’t played).

Rivals of Catan includes three theme decks - each theme deck changes the feel of the game slightly - as the powers on the cards allow certain things.  Some decks are more aggressive, some more about building, some a mix.  Our favourite theme deck is called the Era of Progress - a not very aggressive theme deck that is mostly about building large and expensive buildings in your cities.  If you’re so inclined you can, of course, play with all three theme decks combined.  

The goal - whatever way you choose to play - is to build a certain number of victory points before your opponent manages to.  And the journey between the start and the end is highly enjoyable.

For a card game it can be lengthy - games can last an hour or more.  But they are always highly enjoyable, and this has been one of our most enjoyed game-finds from 2011.  I really think it’s underrated - a very good game.

In any case - my personal enjoyment aside - the expansion adds three new theme decks, and also some new card types and concepts.  So far we’ve only played with one of those theme decks (The Era of Merchant Princes), but it was highly enjoyable - and as the theme name suggests - much about the trade points and ships.

Some of the expansion additions I have particularly enjoyed are: foreign cards, road expansions and region expansions.  Foreign cards can be played into your opponents empire (normally impossible).  These can have positive or negative effects.  Road expansions (like the Tavern) can be built over the top of roads - and add some fun.  And region expansions allow you to milk that regon for resources in exchange for something else - whether they be strength points or trade points or whatever.

Altogether I think the expansion is well worth it, the game is cheap, as is the expansion, each theme deck is a new flavour, and the game is highly enjoyable all around.  With choices to be made and a nice sense of accomplishment as you watch your burgeoning empire grow turn in, turn out.  I rate Rivals of Catan very highly - probably in my top ten - a lot of fun and well worth checking out.

In any case, I think I have meandered enough for now.  Until next blog (which won’t be far away)!


Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Blogging with one hand tied up...

Well - since my last post and this one a couple of weeks have passed.  It's not that I'm letting this blog die a painful and slow death - far from it.  I have broken one of the metacarpals in my hand - so typing with one hand is a painfully slow experience for someone with a mild and self-diagnosed hyperactivity disorder.

Before I have to respond with too many individual posts explaining and re-explaining what happened I'll simply say it here - I was racing my wife to the bathroom (a perfectly normal thing), and in the course of events I did a backwards army roll (also perfectly normal), my hand clipping some sundry and ill-placed item of furniture.  Thus was it broken.

I had an interesting couple of days all told - the next morning (my lovely wife's birthday) I was moving around a nectarine tree I had bought her and stabbed myself in the face with one of the branches - with a swollen lip, hand and blood on my face I told her I'd got in a fight in the carpark at the plant nursery.  She didn't believe me of course - as if I would be injured in a petty carpark altercation! A swift blow from my sabre would have resulted in an immediate end to any such nonsense.

In any case - this is the key reason why this blog has been a little slow the last little while.  I'll hopefully get the cast off in the next few weeks - and I'll thusly be able to return to blogging with some regularity.

Incidentally - We at the castle have been filling our time with games of Ticket to Ride on our phones (an enjoyable way to pass the time), as well as episodes of the BBC mini-series Sherlock, a superlative show I am very much enjoying.  But more about that in a future post perhaps.

In any case - I'll hopefully at least post some shorter blogs in the next couple of weeks...