Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's Christmas!

It's Christmas coming up in a few days, and I just want to post a note about it. Christmas can be a busy and hectic time of year and it can make anyone's hair grow a little thinner just thinking about all the stuff that we take on during the holidays.

I am just so thankful for another Christmas here on Falcon Drive with Jenn and the dogs. Last year around this time, I was feeling pretty lousy with chemo and the surrounding drugs. This year, all I can complain about is the tail end of a cold that has been doggedly hanging on since Thanksgiving. And I can definitely live with that. Once again, praise God for his healing grace, which I definitely do not deserve.

Christmas is great in two ways. It is a great social holiday: you see family and friends, you eat a lot and get a lot of time off of work. Plus, there are presents. (I was especially blessed with cool presents from my wife this year. She is the tops.)

The second way is it once again brings the miracle of Christ into many peoples minds. Christ came to bless us all with his healing grace, and if you haven't decided to take advantage of that yet, consider it this time. Life can be pretty stressful and lonely when we try to live it without God. We are, as human beings, are designed to relate to God. When we accept Christ and try to listen to what the Spirit tells us, wonderful things begin to happen because we are just wired that way.

So, Merry Christmas from me to you! Now I'm going back to play with one of my presents. (A copy of Pitchcar! Jenn is a miracle!)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Getting scan results is annoying

Okay, that is an understatement. Today I went in for the follow up appointment for my CT scan on Tuesday. It's nice to get a "looks good, see you in a few months" but sometimes that's not always what you get.

I'm okay, first off. I feel good, I have no symptoms and my blood work looks great (no indicators for cancer in the blood). The scan showed some changes in some spots in my lung. They are tiny, and these two or three spots are just a smidge bigger than they were three months ago.

What does this mean? Well, it could mean nothing. None of these spots are new, they just looked a little different than they did last time. We do a series of scans over the year to see if there are things that are continuously getting bigger, which if they did would need to be investigated by a biopsy and tests.. So, we need to continue the scans to keep an eye on these things. I go back for my next scan and appointment in March.

Scary, no? It's always nerve rattling to hear this kind of stuff. Jenn and I went through this in the spring and it was nerve wracking and worrisome. Even though I am confident that the Lord has healed me of my cancer, these things are still scary. I'm human and, like all of us, not immune to fear.

That said, keep in mind the Lord is amazing! "Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always" (1 Chronicles 16:11) God has done wondrous things in our lives here at the Zieser household, and we do not forget them! Prayers are always welcome from one and all, and we look forward to the future. Though sometimes a cloud passes in front of the sun, the sun is still there and is not defeated by the cloud. Trust in God! Amen!

Friday, November 7, 2008

End of an Era

After 12 years or so of presenting it's weekly internet gaming magazine, Steve Jackson Games is shutting down Pyramid. They will be converting over to a monthly pdf format, and are even prorating current subscribers over to a 6 month subscription if they want.

To quote Steven Marsh, Pyramid Editor: "With more and more content of all kinds available free on the web, subscription sales slumped. We hoped that subscribers would be willing to pay for extra quality. In trying to reach that goal, we made Pyramid SUCH a good deal, in terms of price per word, that all our effort on it earned very little money. The obvious conclusion was to either kill the magazine completely, or bring it in line with other products with similar budgets."

Of course, they are refunding subscribers if they choose that option, and I did.

I will miss Pyramid Online. It was the first place to check if you wanted to confirm some weird message board rumor about the gaming industry. They ran great comics. Every Friday for the past 10+ years, it was the first thing I'd read in the day. And the weekly poll: sometimes timely, sometimes oddball but always fun and interesting.
I wish the new monthly Pyramid well, but it's sad to see things change.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Hey, Where's my Cash?

A new version of "Hey, That's My Fish" is coming out, with these beautiful sculpted pieces instead of the little wooden "meeple" penguins of the previous edition. Very slick, but unless they've changed something about how the game plays (which is very good!), I'll be sticking to my old set. I'm a big fan of wooden pieces, anyway.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dem bones, dem bones....

Went to the ORAL SURGEON today to see about getting the wisdom teeth out, at the urging of my dentist. I was REAL HAPPY to be going too.

So imagine how happy I am to hear that they (the teeth) are probably best left alone. The doctor, who was very nice, explained how he might cause more damage going in to get them than to leave them be.

So guess what option I went with?

So yay for my mouth and me!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Blog!!

Since I've started doing a little freelance illustration, I thought I'd put up a new blog to talk about it a little and promote some of my stuff. So, go on over to Curmudgeons & Dragons and check out my latest drawings! Hopefully, I'll be a bit more punctual about putting up new posts than I am over here. But, then again, I do have "nothing to say"!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hey, I'm on the cover!

I recently started doing a little freelance illustration work. One of the projects that I'm illustrating is "Original Edition Characters" from Goblinoid Games, who put out Labyrinth Lord. I was very surprised and delighted to see one of my images being used as the cover, especially since I only drew the thing yesterday!

This may not seem like a big deal , but it is to me. When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time copying illustrations out of my D&D books, and I always had a hope that someday my drawings would be in those books. Well, it took me about 26 years to get there, but I got there.

So, I look forward to "Original Edition Characters" being released, not only because it will have my drawings in it, but because it sounds like a neat product I would have bought anyway.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Feeling loike ye Olde Gamer

I've been reading a lot of Old School style roleplaying games lately, namely Swords & Wizardry as well as Labyrinth Lord, which I've mentioned here before. I've also been reading some fantastic Old School RPG blogs, most notably Grognardia and Jeff's Gameblog.

I am also a big fan of Chad Underkoffler and his PDQ game system. I've been a big supporter of "Truth & Justice" and "The Zorceror of Zo", and have ran them both numerous times at game clubs and conventions. I have had a lot of fun with this system. So, you'd think that when Chad puts out yet another tweaked version of PDQ (called PDQ Sharp or PDQ#) I would be all over that.

Oh, I downloaded the free supplement with glee. I happily adjusted my bifocals and started reading. Then I frowned. "Why does this game seem so complicated?" I thought. I was, just last year, calling this game system "rules-light" and "elegant". Now it just seemed cumbersome. How had this happened??

The answer, it seems, is the "Old School" becoming the "New School" for me. "Swords and Wizardry" has shown me that having a "universal resolution" rule set (One in which a single rule can be applied to nearly any endeavor a player's character may undertake to produce a clear result) can not only be undesirable, but also a hindrance to creative play. S&W really only has rules that govern combat. The rest is up to the players and the GM to work out in play. It is no longer a matter of "My character tries to make peace with the hobgoblins. What do I roll?", but more of "Okay, Rufus shows empty hands to the hobgoblins in a sign of friendship and then slowly reaches for his money purse. Maybe I can bribe these guys into going away. What do they do?"

See the difference? The first example has the player merely rolling dice and moving the pawn, much like Monopoly. The second, the player is engaged into thinking of what to do and how to do it. The player is solving the problem, not a dice roll. Plus the Gamemaster is also more engaged. Now instead of just setting target numbers, he is really having to think "Okay, would that work?" and "What could happen now?".

This all seems so simple, yet I have been caught up in rulesets for years, and for what? Only to discover that the first rules I learned to use were really the ones I liked the best. If that doesn't make a man feel old, nothing does.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

It's Out!

I finally got my port out today!! Yay for me!!! This thing did make life a tiny bit easier during chemo, but I am not going to miss the weird hard bump on my chest. Nor will I miss wacking myself in the port, which is not unlike being hit in the groin, only in your chest. The procedure was fairly quick and didn't really hurt. I'm a touch sore, but other than that just glad to be rid of my little plastic companion.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Geek Arts n Crafts

One of the boards I frequent for old roleplaying games, Original D&D Discussions, had a thread on homemade Dungeon Master's Screens for Original D&D. DM's Screens are cardboard standups used to block the players from seeing the maps, notes and die rolls of the Dungeon Master during a game. I had made one over the winter, and decided to post about it.

Anyway, here are photos of it! I made it out of cardstock and self-stick laminating sheets. The castle images came from a foldup paper castle model set I had, and the charts from a .pdf of the Judges Guild Ready Ref sheets.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Back at it.

As has been pointed out over at Team Zieser, I'm finally getting around to updating this blog. It just never occurred to me that someone, somewhere, was reading this thing. So, basically, I have had plenty of opportunities to foist my opinions upon someone else and have been asleep at the switch the whole of the time. Shame on me.

So let me see, since my very first post was about boardgames, I suppose I should get around to posting about one of my other gaming passions: the roleplaying game. As I've stated before here, I started as a teenager playing "Dungeons & Dragons" and haven't stopped yet. Oh sure, there were years during college where my interest in these games seemed to wane. But I've always ended up coming back to the hobby for one very good reason. These games are fun.

I have yet to find a source of entertainment as rich and interesting as the roleplaying game. Part wargame / part improvisational theater/ part Monty Python sketch; there is no other pastime, in my view, that offers such surprising fun. Many people find roleplaying games interesting, but have yet to take that first step and purchase one.

However, with the Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook running $39.95 and Dungeonmasters having to shell out another $79.90 for the Dungeon Master's Guide and the Monster Manual, many people may shy away from trying it out. And with $4.00 a gallon gas and everything else we have to spend our hard earned cash on, who can blame them? So what if I told you there are a number of quality rpgs out there in the wilderness of the Internet that are free for the downloading? Here, let me tell you about my favorite 5.

Steve's Top 5 Free Roleplaying Games
The phrase "Free RPG" has been a byword for "poorly edited crap" for many years, but these are exceptions to that rule. These are all professionally written; laboriously play tested, skillfully illustrated and just plain good games. All of these games are in PDF file format and can be downloaded and enjoyed instantly! For those of you wishing for a physical book, all are available in a print-on-demand format. You can also take the file to your nearest copy center and have them print and bind a copy for you there.

Labyrinth Lord by Daniel Proctor
This book seeks to emulate the experience of playing the Dungeons & Dragons Basic and Expert sets circa 1981. In fact, LL is dedicated to Tom Moldvay, who edited the Basic set and passed away last year. The "Moldvay edit", as these sets are referred to, was one of the friendliest to new players, It taught you how to play roleplaying games, and Dan's re-envisioning of this rule set does not stray from this mission. Dwarves, Elves and Dragons; all the usual fantasy tropes are here and ready for you to adventure with. The rules are quick and light and easily adaptable to nearly any kind of fantasy adventure, plus fully compatible with any adventure written for D&D Basic and Expert. Not a mere re-write, I can think of no game better to introduce new players to the roleplaying hobby than Labyrinth Lord.

Basic Fantasy RPG by Chris Gonnerman
At first blush, this book seems nearly identical to Labyrinth Lord. Although it does draw its inspiration from the same sources, Basic Fantasy seeks to deliver the classic fantasy gaming experience, but update some of the mechanics to be compatible with newer D&D products (to some extent). Well written and expertly illustrated (if I might say so myself;)), BFRPG is also well supported with a number of free adventures and supplements that add more character types and adventure possibilities. Basic Fantasy is also in its 2 edition now, with a few rules tweaks and some organizational issues cleaned up. A good starter game for beginning roleplayers, Basic Fantasy is a good base to build great adventures on.

Encounter Critical by Hank Riley and Jim Ireland
In 1979, a group of avid gamers in Wisconsin called the "Saturday Night Slayers" decided that they needed their own set of rules for the games they liked to play. Visionary Hank Riley needed a game that focused on "true scientific realism" in the combination of science fiction and fantasy gaming. Thus, Encounter Critical was born. EC is in fact a modern game, but written and illustrated in a very old-school style. Author S. John Ross wanted to see if his good natured hoax would fool anyone into believing they had found a long lost classic, so he released the file onto the internet to see who would bite. A few people were fooled, but it wasn't long before he was found out.

Hoax or no, EC is a wonderful homage to the games of the past in a highly enjoyable and playable format. If you are unfamiliar with the rpg books of the late 1970's-early 80's, there will be jokes here that you will be unaware ARE jokes. A true gem.

Mutant Future by Daniel Proctor and Ryan Denison
The late 1970's and early 1980's saw a United States still gripped by the latter portion of the Cold War. The tensions in this time were reflected in the media of the day (anyone remember Missile Command?), and they also popped up in roleplaying games. Many games were published that sought to emulate the world after a full-on nuclear war. Some were rife with desperate realism. Most, however, were filled with radioactive mutants and malfunctioning robots in a world gone mad.

Mutant Future is a science fantasy rpg that is set in just such a world. Using the rule set from Labyrinth Lord, MF is chock full of robots, advanced ray guns and more weird mutants than you can shake a tentacle at. Especially interesting are the Spidergoats, which seem to have become the unofficial Mutant Future mascot monsters. This is a game for those with an interest in science fiction or those who would like to play games like Dungeons and Dragons, but find the inclusion of magic and magical creatures not to their tastes. Those wanting to include those elements in MF will not be disappointed, as there is a section dealing with bringing mutants and robots into the world of Labyrinth Lord.

Risus by S. John Ross
S. John Ross is a very funny man. He is also a talented game designer. Now put the two together and what do you get? Risus the Anything RPG! Risus (pronounced Rhee-soos for you Latin scholars out there) is designed for quick, impromptu game sessions or for anyone who likes a minimum of bookwork and a maximum of fun.

The whole of Risus is only six pages long (3 if you double-side it!), yet it conveys a great little set of rules for whatever you want to do with it. Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Comedy, whatever: Risus will do it with style. One thing that it does not do is to explain the terms and concepts of roleplaying to the beginning gamer. The author assumes that since you downloaded Risus, you know what to do with it. Since it was never written as an intro to roleplaying, I can't give him bad marks for that. A great little game and a very funny read; Risus is definitely worth your time.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

It's our 5th Anniversary!

If you've been trying to reach us and haven't had much luck in the past few days, that would be because we have been on vacation to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary. Yay for us!

This year we decided to continue our tradition of going to a new zoo on our anniversary and chose the Minnesota Zoo as our destination. But did the fun begin or end there? Oh no!

We arrived in the Twin Cities on Thursday evening amid an incredible rainstorm that commenced the moment we emerged from the car at our hotel. Soaked and tired, we collapsed upon the bed and tried to work up the energy to go to dinner. The Holiday Inn we stayed at had a terrific restaurant attached with some of the best pizza I have ever eaten in my life! Yum!

Energized with a new infusion of cheese and cured meats, Jenn and I ventured out to IKEA! I only became familiar with this huge, Swedish superstore a few years back and it is a paradise for those, like my Jenn, who love to decorate and find cool things for their homes. Jenn was in a bit of a frenzy and found all sorts of neat things we could use. I pushed the cart and enjoyed her enthusiasm. I love to watch my wife get excited about the things she enjoys. It is one of my big joys in life.

The next morning broke stormy and dark, but with the weather radar showing a clearing trend for the day, we headed off to the Minnesota Zoo. First, I forsook our pre-printed Mapquest directions and followed the "helpful" signs pointing "Zoo". This got us lost in a suburb with not a sign of any zoo-like structures. Next, we backtracked and I followed our directions and this time we ended up in an industrial zone that did not look like a welcome habitat for any critter. Finally, we stopped and asked at the gas station with the SLOWEST PUMPS IN THE WORLD. The folk there we very friendly and quickly got us on the correct route which ended up being nowhere near the other two directions we had previously followed.

Thus we ended up at the Minnesota Zoo. It was an enjoyable tour with the highlights being: some gigantic looking wolves, the Fishing Cat, the dolphin show, snow monkeys and a very impressive aquarium display with lots of large, impressive fish (Jenn got to pet a shark). A lot of the animals, however, were absent. Most were being kept in their enclosures due to the storm warnings that were out and some might have just been busy doing other things. It was a little bit of a let down, but all in all a good visit. We ended our day with another great dinner at the hotel and congratulated and were congratulated in turn by another couple there for their 50th anniversary.

Saturday, our actual anniversary date, broke with the both of us a bit wiped out. Still, we had planned to go to the Mall of America to do some shopping and we made a valiant effort. We had some barbecue at Famous Dave's, where the seemingly untrained hostess kept trying to seat everyone right by the kitchen door even though the restaurant was empty. We then proceeded with our planned shopping trip which was over in one store!

We popped into Games by James and made some purchases: a copy of Password...and something called Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition (I think, I'll have to take a look at it again to be sure of the name). We then realized there weren't any other stores we wanted to do to visit at all...a zillion stores and nothing there that interested us. How sad is that? Undaunted, we hit the suburbs and found some interesting little shops including an organizational store that Jenn went wild for.

Finally, we wrapped up our visit to the cities with a stop at White Castle for some burgers (I love these little burgers, and swear that the frozen ones you can get at the supermarket are NOT the same. Jenn loves them much less and is not convinced of my arguments concerning the frozen ones) and then we headed home. Today we are recovering from our trip, and Moses is enjoying having us around again.

So, to sum it up: we went lots of places, saw lots of stuff and ate fattening food, but these are not the important things. What is important is that I am more in love with my wife than the day we were married and that our marriage just gets better and better each day. I enjoy every little detail about Jenn and would not change a thing about her. She is a precious gift given to me by the Lord and it is my job to love her and try to be the best husband she can have. It is the best job in the world.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

It's the End of the World as We Know It (Now, where's my dice?)

Do you feel it?

Place your hands on the keyboard and sit still for a moment.

There, feel that?

That, my friend, is a disturbance in the internet. The quivering tension of a thousand forum servers groaning under the weight of postings more numerous than there are stars in the sky.

What could be causing all this electronic chatter? Simple.

Saturday, a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons will be released.

I will freely admit it. I play D&D and have since I was 14. For those of you who don't really know what Dungeons & Dragons is, I will give a brief explanation. You other geeks can count your dice until I get done explaining things.

Dungeons & Dragons (and other games like it) is a role-playing game, or RPG for short. RPGs often use dice, like board games, but there is no "board" per se. Each player creates a Player Character (or PC) to control in the game "world". These characters are usually comprised of numbers that reflect the characters skills and abilities. One player has no character to play. This player is referred to as the Gamemaster. (or Dungeon Master, or Referee) He is in charge of the game world that the players are about to adventure in. He plays enemies, allies and occasionally, inanimate objects the player's characters will interact with. It is his job to create an objective, or adventure, for the players. He describes what characters can see, hear, smell and touch around them. The players, in turn, tell the GM what they want their characters to do in reaction to what the GM has described. Rules and dice are used to determine the outcomes of what the players want to achieve.

Nearly anything can happen in an RPG. The game is really only limited by the time the players have to play and their imaginations. This kind of interactivity and creativity really is unmatched in other forms of entertainment and is the reason why I'm still playing them.

Okay, educational section over.

Saturday, the 4th edition of the D&D rules hits the shelves. Thousands of players will be snatching up Player's Handbooks, Dungeon Master's Guides and Monster Manuals. Thousands of others will firmly refuse to spend money on a new edition, claiming the publishers are merely trying to make money off of them. (Make money? What a ridiculous reason to get into publishing...) Thousands more will loudly claim to refuse to spend their money and then go and do it when they think no one is looking.

Despite all the online fury, I don't see any horrible fallout or problems with a new ruleset. D&D's publishers, Wizards of the Coast, have revised the ruleset to make it more accessible to younger players, which is a good decision. But you would think, by reading the internet forums dedicated to D&D players, that the End of the World (or a Great New Golden Age, depending on who you ask) is upon us! I've seen talk of the danger of a new edition (What, someone will get a 4 sided die in the eye?) or what it will do to the roleplaying industry. (You can tell when you've crossed the line into geekdom when you refer to your hobby as an industry)

What will I do? Probably wait and see what comes about. I have plenty of rulesets that I can use to run my games with. But, the reason I have plenty of rulesets is that I like to buy and read them for enjoyment. So, I may end up buying into the new rules at some point in the future.

But regardless of what ruleset people use to play them, RPG's are an enjoyable pastime that you can take with you your whole life. I've played with gamers as young as 8 and as old as 80 and have met some fantastic people along the way. It may not appeal to everyone, but to those it does: Keep your dicebag ready, and "When in doubt, roll and shout!"

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Episode 8: In which Wii throw a Fit

So, Thursday morning arrives and I am laying in bed, making a concerted effort to sleep between hitting the snooze on the alarm clock, when Jenn calls out to me from the office across the hall.
"Honey, I think we need to get a Wii".

Suddenly, I am awake. But a little puzzled. "Isn't this the woman who has ignored my hints and nudges about the Nintendo Wii for months now?" I said to myself. What has happened to bring this about?

Well, Jenn had been reading a lot of posts on one of her favorite forums, BeautyBuzz, about the new Wii Fit game, which is comprised of a game and a sophisticated scale/balance board that encourages physical activity and health. You can do yoga, strength training, aerobics and some nifty balance games as well. Plus it keeps track of your BMI and weight and helps you set fitness goals.

Plus, it was a Wii. I could play Mario on it.

Now our problem consisted of actually finding a Wii and a Wii Fit to purchase. Online prices were outrageously inflated. We decided last night to make an effort to find one in Cedar Rapids and take it home.

First stop, Best Buy. We walked into the store and were there a total of 20 seconds before I noticed the Wii supplies and attachents for sale, but a distinct lack of Wii's themselves. I asked the salesperson nearest us if they had any Wii's for sale. The salesperson had the expression of "oh-no-not-again" as he replied that they did not. However, then he waits an additional five seconds (for the effect of looking cool, perhaps? Do these Best Buy guys not know that they are just working retail?) to say "We do have the Wii Fit in, though." And, as if on cue, a kid comes out of the back, wheeling a shopping cart full of Wii Fits. So seizing one of them, we made for the registers and got out on the trail of the elusive Wii itself.

It was a dismal search. GameStop, K-Mart, Video Games Etc., all three Wal-Marts in CR and Marion and Toys R Us. No dice. It was looking like the Fit was destined to sit on a shelf for a week or so until we could find a console.

But on a whim, I decided to call the Wal-Mart in Anamosa. "What the heck. Maybe, being out of the way, they might have one." I spoke to the Electronics Guy. "Do you have a Nintendo Wii in stock?". "No" he replied. "We have four of them".

Exhausted after our retail adventure, Jenn stayed behind as I drove out to Anamosa. Would they still have any? Was I being a little too concerned over a stupid video-game console? Perhaps...

I arrive in Anamosa to find the Electronics Guy, whose name was Zack, I believe, putting a Wii console on the shelf. In mere moments, the Wii and all the peripherals we would need were in a bag and coming home with me.

I hate to be one to fall for hype, but the Wii is pretty cool. I spent a good chunk of last night and today navigating Mario around a series of weird little asteroids and trying to walk a virtual tightrope by balancing on the Fit board.

Score one for Commercialism. They got me again.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Addendum: Tabitha the Charming

Adorable, no? She's a sweetie alright.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Episode 4: In which Steve gets Legos and series of hamsters

Okay, since the last post here, a lot has gone down with us. First off, I got back to the doctor and found out my latest CT scan was clear of cancer. This was good news, but also opened the door for more goodness. I had made a deal with myself that if my scan was clear, I would get Legos. Hence, the Y-Wing.

The Y-Wing has to be one of my favorite spaceships from Star Wars. Yeah, the X-Wing gets all the press and the glory, but the guy flying the Y-Wing, well, he knows what's goin' on. He's the guy you ask where to get a good lunch near the Rebel base. He's gonna know where the best deals on astromech droids are. He is the Man. Plus, you knew that the design for the Y-Wing actually predates the X-Wing, right? Of course you did. Here's the concept design for the first film.

Also, we've now had a series of hamsters at the Zieser household. Pippin got sick, and we took him back to Pet-Co to see what we could do for him. They got him to see the vet, and it turned out that the little guy had a serious case of diarrhea, which can kill a hamster. We needed to return him to get him treated, and instead of dealing with visiting a sick hamster for two weeks, we got a different one instead. And so came Walter into our lives. We loved Walter, just as we loved Pippin, but in a few days he started to show signs of sickness as well.

So today, I took Walter back to get treatment. And then we got a hold of Tabitha, who is a reddish-gold colored Teddy Bear Hamster. She has had a full antibiotic treatment and should be in much better health. Plus, she is much tamer than the past two hamsters. We are hoping that there will not need to be any more personnel changes in the hamster department for awhile now.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Meet Pippin, King of the Hamsters!

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me introduce you to the newest member of Team Zieser: Pippin! Pippin is a Syrian Black Bear Hamster, and is just the coolest little guy ever! I can hear him now, as I type, his little wheel squeaking away happily.

All this came about quite suddenly yesterday. I had been wanting to have a new pet, but another Chihuahua was certainly not going to work out at this time in our lives. So, we went to Pet-Co a few weeks ago and looked around at different little pets. I liked the hamsters best, but nothing seemed to draw our eye enough to purchase anything.

Last night, I was at the GAMES! at the BRBC event and I got a call from Jenn saying that there was a new little friend at our house. She had gone looking at hamsters while I was there and got him as a suprise. Pip came right up to the glass and pawed at her, and that's how she knew he was the one for us! I, of course, was very excited, and soon was rushing home to greet our new little friend. Names were bandied about (Zaphod, Solomon, Boba Fett, Attila) but the one that stuck was Pippin (or Pip, or Pip the Mighty Squeak). We couldn't be happier with the little guy, and once I figure our how to hold him properly, then all will be well. (He made a short-lived escape, but was soon retrieved!) Moses seems to like him a lot, and gets up on his hind legs to peer into the cage at him.

So, please to welcome Pippin into your electronic homes and hearts! Hopefully, I can keep everyone updated on his progress and blather on about yet another pet all the time!

All Hail the Mighty Pip!!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Clay & Rockets

Well, Game Day at the Marion Library went pretty well. Jenn and I had a nice time and saw lots of familiar faces and some new ones too!

Things started out small, so we gathered together who we had present for a quick game of "Hey! That's My Fish!", followed by the aforementioned Clay -O-Rama extravaganza. (photos forthcoming at some point) Lots of clay was tossed around and smushed and mushed, and in the end, everyone had a good time. Our friend, Adam, won the day with his large-mouthed Catmandu. This was the second in his streak of wins that day. (he had also won at HTMF! earlier).

During Clay-O-Rama, more gamers arrived, and our groups began to split. A quick game of "Mr. Jack", and then "Ticket to Ride: Marklin". I had heard good things about Marklin, so I gave it a shot. Similar in a lot of respects to "Ticket to Ride", but the map is of Germany, so I didn't know where the towns were. Plus the game adds passengers and freight to the mix, which give you more strategic options than regular TTR. A very good game, but not the one a newbie to TTR should start out with. I held my own, and didn't end up last in the point counts, but didn't win either. You can always tell a good game when you spend time thinking about what you could have done differently hours later. I definitely want to try "Ticket to Ride: Europe" now, and see what else I'm missing.

More games were played after a quick break for lunch, including Carcassone, Bohnanza, Ark of the Covenant, Thurn and Taxis and Starfarers of Catan, plus there was some definite jigsaw puzzle action going on as well. Starfarers was one of the games I had gotten for my birthday, and I hadn't had a chance to play it yet, so we broke it out.

If you haven't seen Starfarers of Catan, the game is very cool. The object of the game is to explore space to obtain more resources to build colonies on strange, new worlds. Plus, there are pirates to fight, icy wildernesses to conquer and strange, alien races to make trade deals with. And the plastic bits are cool. (Have I mentioned the bits yet?) Each player has thier own plastic rocketship that represents their fleet. As the game goes on, you add bits to the rocket to improve your ships: Boosters to increase speed, Cannons to fight pirates, Freight Rings to make trade easier. Plus, the rockets are also part of the game mechanics! To determine how far your ships can travel in a turn, you pick the rocket up, shake it, and look at the colored beads that line up in the little window on the bottom. Colored bead indicate how far the ships can travel, and a black bead indicates that something unexpected has happened (pirate attack, a chance to rescue a fellow space traveler, wily space merchants, etc)

The game was a lot of fun, though I got some rules wrong in my skim of them. (I had resources trading at 4:1 instead of 3:1, and Trade Goods at 4:1 instead of 2:1, plus we had players with no rockets on the board shaking their mothership to see if they had an encounter. (They don't have to do that), and some other things here and there) Altogether a good game, though, and Adam once again prevailed by a huge margin. I'll definitely play this again and again and will keep an eye out for a deal on the 5-6 player expansion set!

Overall a good day, with a bit of overindulgence on mexican food after we got home. (Ooof..) I was thankful that Jenn was there with me. She usually doesn't go to these events with me, but did this time and had a good time. I just enjoyed the fact that she was there with me, and we got to share the day together. Marriage is a pretty cool thing. I don't know how I lived before I met Jenn, I really don't.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Game Day Goodness!

Just a reminder of the CRGCON gameday event at the Marion Library this Saturday from 9:45am-4:15pm in meeting room A. For those of you who haven't been to any of these events, they involve a number of different games that spread across a broad spectrum of interests. And did I mention it is a FREE event? Lots of entertainment suitable for all ages, and it doesn't cost a dime! It will be a good time, and I hope to see lots of folks there! Remember, there will be Clay-O-Rama mayhem, as well as lots of other dice-rolling, card-flopping goodness. Game On, Dudes!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Sun, Fun and Hobbits

Today was a pretty good day. It was warm and sunny, so we got outside to conquer some things that needed doing (cleaning gutters, picking up sticks, etc), Moses got some walking done and I even got over to Wal-Mart to get some errands done. With a nice warm breeze coming in the windows this afternoon, I decided that while Jenn worked on her shop , I would play a solo game of Lord of the Rings, which I've mentioned before in my Top 5 Boardgames.

Since LotR is effectively a solitaire game played by a group, it isn't difficult to play solo. So, I set up the game with Frodo and Sam headed off to drop the Ring into Mt. Doom. Things went very smoothly as the hobbits crept through Moria without so much as causing the Balrog to turn over in his sleep. After recuperating in Lothlorien, the two then faced the perils of Helm's Deep. (I know that in the books and films, Frodo and Sam never came anywhere near Helm's Deep. However, they might have come that way if they had stuck with Aragorn and gone to Minas Tirith instead of heading off to Mordor.)

Helm's Deep proved very challenging, and as the Uruk-Hai attacked, the Eye of Sauron was drawn thither, and he moved quite a bit down the Corruption track toward the hobbits, and they, in turn, moved up the track towards the Dark Lord. But, a judicious allocation of resources allowed the hobbits to escape and venture on towards the Pass of Cirith Ungol and Shelob's Lair.

Things seemed promising as the hobbits encountered Faramir, gaining some aid from him and were guided on their way by the treacherous Gollum. However, it wasn't long before Sauron advanced even more, perhaps sensing the presence of the Ring nearing his realm. Sam, unable to take the strain, fell into darkness and was destroyed. Alone, Frodo moved onward, and though he gained more ground, was unable to recover from the loss of his faithful Sam. Shelob attacked and Frodo finally fell as well. Recovered by Gollum, the Ring quickly found its way back to its dark master.

And so, I lost. Made it nearly halfway through the Shelob's Lair board and onto Mordor. But, all in all, a good way to spend a quiet afternoon.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Love is Fleeting....

Poor penguins...

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Games and Libraries, What Could Be Better?

Don't know what to do with yourself on the 19th of April? Like to play games? Then make sure to come down to the Marion Public Library for a CRGCon Game Day! We'll be playing games of all sorts from 9:45am-4:15pm in Meeting Room A, and we hope you can join us! This is a free event, and the whole family is welcome to join in! This month's game day will feature a session of Clay-O-Rama, where you make a monster out of clay to beat the stuffing out of other clay monsters. What could be cooler? Bring a game of your own to share, if you like!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


This is a very cute image I found today on Boardgamegeek, which uses the pieces from "Hey, That's My Fish", which I bought a month or so ago. We've played it a lot with both adults and kids, and it has turned out to be a big winner.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Memoir '44 and Me

Last week was my birthday, and I got to make some birthday game purchases. One of these was Memoir '44 from Days of Wonder. This WW2 battle game was released in 2004 to commemorate the D -Day landings in 1944. The game is comes with two sets of high-quality plastic figures of the American and German armies, including tanks, artillery and battlefield obstacles such as razor wire and tank traps. Each player commands his troops using cards to decide what units can move and fight and uses special dice to determine the outcome of the battle. Sound familiar? The underlying game system, called the Command and Colors system, is also used in the game Commands and Colors: Ancients, Battlecry and Battlelore. While not having all the rules and troop types of the Ancients game, Memoir provides a very solid tactical experience. Plus it plays out in about 30 to 60 minutes, making it very playable for busy adults who may not have the six or seven hours it might take to play games like Axis and Allies. Memoir '44 is definitely going to see a lot of play on my table.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Having nothing to say and a list of 5 games.

Welcome to my new blog! Those of you familiar with my wife, Jenn, and the Team Zieser blog, are used to a high quality of writing and a depth of expression that Jenn is soooo incredibly gifted with.

Well, don't get your hopes up for that here.

I know that we've been through a lot this past year or two (you know, the cancer, the adoption and all), but I can't express these things better than Jenn has. One thing that I hope to get across in this blog is that I am not going to allow my disease or lack thereof dominate our lives. I've been told to not take any time for granted and live life to the fullest. Sometimes, that means making momentous decisions or undertaking great tasks or missions. Sometimes that also means allowing yourself to muck about with silly, inconsequential things. Things that won't change the world, won't save humanity from whatever it needs to be saved from at the moment or make you a million dollars. Things you enjoy just for the sheer heck of it.

That's where I come in. So, here we go with the first peek into the mundane.

Steve's Top 5 Boardgames You May Have Not Heard Of

1. Carcassonne: Probably the game with the oddest name, yet. Also often referred to as a “gateway game”, in that once the non-hobby gamer tries it they will be hooked and start playing more non-mainstream games. This is a simple tile laying game, where players take turns placing tiles to create a map on the game table of cities, roadways and other features. This game is very flexible in that it can be played in a very friendly cooperative style or in a very cutthroat, competitive style. It is a very good game right out of the box, and has numerous expansions sets that can be used to add more tiles and new rules wrinkles to those who might be interested. There are also a number of different games in the Carcassonne “family” which are equally as addictive, including “Ark of the Covenant”, a Biblically themed variant. This is a game that I will play at any time. Seriously.

2. Blokus: Of the 5 games, this is the only one you’re likely to find at a Toys R Us. Players take turns in this puzzle game laying down colorful, plastic, “Tetris” style pieces until no more can be fitted on the board. A good logic game that hooks you pretty quickly, especially if you are a fairly visual person in the first place.

3. Commands and Colors: Ancients: Aside from Lord of the Rings, this is probably the most “gamer” style game in the list. Looking somewhat like Stratego on steroids, this game simulates key battles from the 1st and 2nd Punic Wars, fought between Ancient Rome and Carthage. Each player takes turns playing cards that allow them to move the different kinds of troops on the playing board, represented by a set of stylish wooden blocks. Battles are determined with special dice and the game play is quick and decisive. Given the number of different troop types (each with different abilities), this game can be a little intimidating at first to learn, but after a few turns it becomes very elegant and straightforward. Definitely a must for History Channel fans out there. Plus it has elephants! Another of the games that I can be talked into playing at any time. Very cool.

4. Ticket to Ride: Another “gateway” game, Ticket to Ride is a colorful game themed around railroads. Players take turns placing little plastic train cars on a map of the United States. Players gain points by placing trains and completing routes between the various cities. A very fast paced and fun game that really impresses you with the quality of the game pieces and components.

5. Lord of the Rings: Probably the most perfect combination of theme and game on this list. The players each represent a Hobbit on the quest to destroy the One Ring. The players cooperate with one another to travel across Middle Earth and must make hard choices to avoid the corrupting influence of Sauron. The art is all by John Howe, who did a lot of the conceptual art for the films, so the game is visually very stimulating. This is a game that you have to play a few times before you “get it”, as the number of steps in a player’s turn can be a little bewildering to a raw newbie. Probably one of the most challenging games I’ve played, yet the most rewarding when you win. 2008

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