January 17th, 2008


You people are strange.

"Tell us a story about pirate ninja sheep."

Once upon a time, in Wales, there was a band of sheep. They were white. They were fluffy. They were dangerous.

These sheep didn't have a sheepdog, and they wouldn't have listened to one if they did. They spent their time loitering near the sea cliffs, sharpening their hooves on rocks and biting the heads off of gull chicks. All the extra calcium gave them lovely strong bones and muscles, which they used to kick each other in the head.

One day, a large boat drifted towards the shore while some of the sheep were down on the beach scrounging seaweed and stepping on crabs. (The rest of the sheep were up on top of the cliffs, pushing rocks over to see if they could hit anyone.) Though it was riding quite low in the water, the sheep were intrigued, and when it drifted close enough, they grabbed the dangling lines and towed it in.

The boat was abandoned; the only sailors aboard were long dead of thirst, or in some cases stabbing. The sheep threw them overboard, because what can you do with a broken sailor? The hold had been pillaged, the hull badly damaged, and the rigging all torn about. The only things left aboard were the anchor, some barrels of tar, and a slim Japanese volume on the art of ninjutsu.

Interesting, thought the sheep.

They hauled the boat up onto the beach, emptied out the water, scraped off the barnacles, and mopped up the nasty filthy ick that grows on abandoned boats. They wove new woolen sails, improvised rope repairs from seaweed, and bullied some gulls into helping them get the lines back up (but ate their chicks afterwards anyway, because they were wholly untrustworthy sheep). They patched up the hull with the barrels of tar. They got entirely covered with the tar while patching, of course, because they're sheep and sheep are clumsy. It matted up their wool and made them black and shiny and sleek.

To pass the time while the hull was drying and the gulls were weeping, the sheep studied the book of ninjutsu. Fortunately, it had illustrations. Not illustrations of sheep, mind you, but they were fairly clever and utterly ruthless sheep, so they figured out how to adapt some of the nastier tricks.

Once the ship had been repaired, the sheep re-floated it, filled the hold with sod and gull eggs, and sailed off to strike terror into the hearts of the local fishermen, and any passing galleons full of gold they happened to run across.

And that, my dears, is why we call pirates and ninjas and other no-goodniks whose families disapprove of them black sheep.

I answer some questions about games

"What's the most satisfying gaming-related experience that you've ever had?"

This one.

That was the most fantabulous suffusion of awesomeness I've ever been part of, and it's made me really picky about my gaming groups. The bits that will give you the best sense of the game are probably the quotes and the ThoughtRecord of the Power of Stories (Andres' character; he kept the most complete set of notes).

The absolutely most satisfying bit was the part where we won. You don't usually win roleplaying games.

"When you play games, is it important to you that you win?"

Um... well, I can't really say no after that, can I?

I would say that it is not so much important that I win as that I have the possibility of winning, if it is the sort of game that someone wins. I am quite happy to play games with no winners, like catch or Zendo (or roleplaying games), and I am quite happy to win or lose a game that is a fairly equal contest of skill, but I won't play two-player games with andres_s_p_b any more because he always wins. I prefer that my possibility-of-winning be preserved as long as possible, so games in which a player who falls behind at first will almost certainly lose tend to frustrate me. I don't like losing due to luck or another player choosing to damage me in a way that doesn't win them the game, but I'm fine with losing because I made an error or another player did something clever. I am much more cheerful about losing short games than long games.

And from a different questioner:

"You and andres_s_p_b have a lot of games. I like cooperative games. Do you have any you recommend?"

Hm. We don't really have much in the way of cooperative board games. I generally play Zendo somewhat cooperatively; it can be pushed as far in that direction as you'd like.

Scotland Yard and Fury of Dracula are both played as one player (the villain) against a cooperating team. They're effectively two-player games, where one side gets extra brains. They have very similar gameplay, except that Fury of Dracula adds a lot of complicating cards and so forth and takes a lot longer. Basically, the villain moves secretly around a board, and the other players try to find out where he is. I like playing the villains, but find the hero side less entertaining. Scotland Yard is short enough that the hero side can be a fun little puzzle, but Fury of Dracula drags too much for me to recommend it.

One of the many Lord of the Rings board games is cooperative. I believe the basic game is entirely cooperative, and the villain is played only by dice. (One of the expansions adds a player who controls the side of evil.) I have played it once, but I don't remember much about it. I think it's fairly popular for its type of game.