Here's a good party question: what do all the locations on the USA Monopoly board have in common? The places include Pennsylvania Avenue, Short Line, Pacific Avenue, Reading Railroad and Marvin Gardens. See if you can solve the puzzle without cheating! You can find the answer here.
Last December I started playing the computer game Snood. It's very addictive, and the upper levels are difficult to conquer. After three months of practice, I finally figured out how to win the "evil" level of play, and am happy to report a high score of 24376. According to the evil high score list, the score to beat is 80546, so I still have plenty of room for improvement.
I'm a big fan of games, and the latest one I tried is called Rummikub. Each player starts with 14 tiles, and each tile has a color and a number. The colors are red, green, blue and orange, and the numbers range from 1 to 13. The objective is to discard your tiles by organizing them into groups that are either all the same number (but different color) or ascending numbers (all the same color). So far, it sounds a lot like the card game Rummy. The big difference is that you can refactor the groups that have been created in order to create new opportunities. For example, if there is a sequence of blue tiles numbered 1..6, you could break it into the sequence 1..3 and the sequence 4..6 and the discard another 4 on the end of the new 1..3 sequence. It isn't as hard as it sounds, but once you start getting the hang of it, you're always wondering whether there are complex rearrangements of the existing patterns from which to discard your last remaining tiles. Highly recommended!
I stumbled across a computer game called Snood today. It's very simple, taking only a few minutes to learn, and extremely addictive. I played it about 20 times in a row right after downloading it, and am about to take another crack at winning a simple level while blogging here in Starbucks. According to this article, Snood is both simple and an evil mistress. Don't say I didn't warn you!
A few weeks ago I posted an entry about RISK, which is a wargame I used to play as a kid. Each player starts with around 20 armies. In the first phase of the game, the players take turns placing an army onto an unoccupied country on a map of the world. In the second phase, these armies are reinforced with the armies that are left over phase 1. In the third and main phase, players take turns attacking from the countries that they own to adjacent enemy territories. There are a few rules which determine how many additional armies a player gains at the start of their turn. The winner is the player who ends up owning every country on the board, so the goal of the game is world domination. Enough people responded to my blog posting that we ended up having a pizza and RISK evening after work, and it was a great success. I narrowly ended up losing to my collegue Shep, and I hope to avenge my loss at the next RISK meeting. For the record, there are a couple of rules that we may modify to improve the game experience. First, the rules only allow one countries armies to be moved at the end of the turn for reinforcement purposes. This seems odd, since multiple countries can be attacked during a turn. So we're considering allow multiple reinforcements at the end of a turn. In addition, we found the number of additional armies gained for forming a set of cards was too great in the later stages of the game, allowing odd scenarios like a player being beaten down to a single country and then suddenly springing back after cashing in a set of cards for 40 additional armies. So we're also considering limiting the number of additional armies per set of cards to 10. Any additional ideas for improving the rules are most welcome!
I used to place the game RISK a lot when I was a kid. The goal of RISK is world domination, and it's great fun for beginners and advanced players alike. I'm going to see if I can get a few players together for some RISK evenings in the near future. If anyone in the DC area is interested, let me know!
I often travel to Japan, and it's amazing to see how many things are branded with a "Hello Kitty" graphic. I was curious about the history of this little kitty, so I did a bit of research. Apparently, the kitty graphic was designed in 1974 by Shimizu Yuko for a company called Sanrio. They were amazed to find that virtually everything that they attached the kitty to sold very quickly, initially including things like purses, wallets, dolls and stationary. They decided to license the graphic to companies wishing to benefit from the same effect, and helped Sanrio to generate about $1 billion in 2002! Today, around 50,000 products carry the kitty graphic. I've become interested enough in the kitty phenomenon to order a book on its history. Anyone interested in branding should definitely study the history of this successful icon.
Now here's an interesting concept. WingWomen. The basic idea is that you can hire good looking women to accompany you to a bar in order to look more attractive to other women. Two of the basic tenets behind the WingWomen concept are: (1) Women want what they can't have, and (2) Women are very jealous and love to compete with one another. Really?!