zwischenzug (ZVI-shen-tsoog) — noun

A chess tactic in which a player, instead of playing the expected move, first interpolates another move, changing the situation to the player's advantage (such as gaining material or avoiding what would otherwise be a strong continuation for the opponent).

Showing posts with label resources. Show all posts
Showing posts with label resources. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Teaching Lessons

Yesterday, I got in the car and started listening to one of my favorite gaming podcasts, On Board Games.   In this particular episode, the hosts, Donald Dennis and Erik Dewey, were talking about teaching games with their guest, Giles Pritchard.  It was a pretty amazing coincidence to me, since I had an interesting teaching challenge this weekend at our gaming group.  Back in April 2011, I wrote about not being prepared to teach 7 Wonders, and I actually put it away rather than ruin the initial play experience for my gaming group.  I was teaching a new game at our monthly meeting on Sunday and once again wasn’t prepared, but in a way that caught me completely off guard.  Playing the game is one thing; scoring is another.

[As a complete aside, I really have to endorse not only the On Board Games podcast, but also Giles’ blog, Castle by Moonlight.  These are great resources for those interested in gaming at any level.]

We started off playing a couple of filler games until everyone arrived.  Afterwards I announced that I was teaching China (a fantastic game I will review soon).  I have never played the game, but I often end up teaching games that I have never played before.  It’s unavoidable, since I don’t get to other groups or conventions to play games with experienced players.  The game play is straightforward in China, literally taking only a few sentences to explain.  Normally, explaining the game play is the hard part; it can be very difficult to explain the various phases and options the player has on their turn.  Let’s use Monopoly as an example.  If you are playing strictly according to the rules, the player rolls the dice and moves their token.  From that point, they either: a) pay the owner of the property; b) buy the property; or c) do nothing.  Option a) is dictated if the property is owned.  If the player chooses option c), the property is put on auction, and there is a set of rules for that.  Of course, all of this goes out the window if the player lands on Chance, Free Parking or one of the other places on the board that have their own set of rules, too.

The scoring for Monopoly, however, is simple; there isn’t any scoring.  The winning player is the last person standing when everyone else has been eliminated.  Many games, and nearly all of the games our gaming group has played, have relatively straightforward scoring systems.  A few others are an exception, like Carcassonne, having a relative scoring element as one part of the whole score.  In Carcassonne, scoring farms is relative to how many completed cities touch that farm.  In China, nearly all of the scoring is relative.  That’s the difficulty in explaining the rules.  That’s what I wasn’t prepared for.  How much you score in a given province in China is relative to how many pieces other players put in the province.  That tension between gaining points and possibly giving away points forms the strategy.

I probably should have seen this coming.  I have trouble teaching Carcassonne precisely because of the farm scoring.  Instead, I fumbled around with an explanation of scoring on Sunday.  Fortunately, the other players were willing to play anyway, and after a first “learning game” we played a game with everyone understanding all of the rules: both game play and scoring.  It’s not that the scoring is hard to understand; it’s just hard to put into words.

In teaching the game I learned a lesson.  In the past, I would teach a game by first introducing the game’s theme or story, giving the game objective in story terms, giving the game objective in terms of the rules, and then explain what a player did on his or her turn.  Along the way, I would explain the various game components.  Explaining the scoring was simple enough that it just worked out in explaining everything else.  In China, that’s just not going to happen.  Explaining the scoring will need its own focus, and will probably need to include examples as I teach.  I will need to work a little more on my teaching technique.

It's Your Move!

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Father Geek Article on Buying Chess Sets as Gifts

Last year I wrote this post about buying chess sets for the Holidays.  I covered the topic again over at  Father Geek.  If you read last year's post you won't find this one that different.  Whichever version you read, it makes sense to buy a child a good chess set that will last for years.

It's Your Move!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chess Sets for Gifts

One of my last posts was my buying guide for holiday gifts.  I suggested that the dedicated chess player is so focused that buying chess items for him or her is more likely to fail then succeed.  However, that's not true of the starting chess player.

This year's Chess Club at school has a lot of new kids in it.  I am so glad my wife is there as the librarian, so that she can use her classroom management skills to my benefit.  In the interest of crowd control, she has taken all of the new members and is walking them through a short introductory course in the game which will finish soon.  This is mandatory, even if you know how to play.  Meanwhile, I have the veterans, who are starting their chess ladder.  I will go into this another time, though I talked about it briefly in a post from last year.

With all of these new kids, I know there will be a few Christmas Lists that have chess sets on them.  Wednesday was the Feast of St. Nicholas, so jolly old St. Nick picked up all of those lists as he stopped by and dropped off tangerines and candy (at least at our house!).  So, where should Santa go if he needs a few more chess sets then he has ready?  I will give you two ideas:

The Chess House is a great place to find a chess set.  I have personally purchased from there, and the transaction was quick and easy.  I would buy their   Quality Regulation Tournament Chess Set Combo .  This set has several advantages: 1) this set (or one VERY similar) is the set used in the school, so children are used to it; 2) this set is a regulation tournament set, so it can be used in official events; 3) it transports easily; 4) it's nearly indestructible.

Similar sets can be found at the US Chess Federation's online store. Their are more options here, with different styles of bags, combinations that include chess clocks, and some that include the book How to Beat Your Dad at Chess.  Always popular.

The US Chess Federation (USCF) is the governing body for chess in the United States.  While you're there, consider getting a gift membership for your little chess player.  It will be well worth it.

I will apologize to my overseas friends; this post is very US-centric.  However, I am sure there are scholastic memberships available in your part of the world too, so the advise still holds.  Regardless of where your live, support your little chess enthusiast and your school's chess program!  There are studies that show how beneficial chess is to young minds, and there are measured results.

It's Your Move!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Funagain Games Free Shipping Starting at $70

Some people may have known this, but I just discovered it.  Funagain Games has lowered their free shipping threshold to $70.  This is an excellent online store with a great reputation.

Time to put together an order!

It's Your Move!

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Third Sunday Gaming - Notes from the Weekend

A few things of interest this weekend:

First of all, we played the revised edition of Risk this weekend, and really enjoyed it.  The game lasted just over 90 minutes with four of us, and no one was out of the running.  Two players had a good shot at winning until the game ended.  Like most of the times I have played this game, the game was about opportunistic play, and it ended somewhat abruptly.  That's not a bad thing, just one of the differences from classic Risk.

We played Bang! also, which was new to the group.  This is a game that needs to be played a few more times to get a feel for it, but it certainly is a family style game.

My son and I were out and about after football practice Saturday, and stopped by the newly minted game store in our area:  Epic Loot Games (website below).  In my opinion, they had a nice selection of games which was very current; there were no stinkers that I saw.  The owners are boardgamers, which is not true of every store in our area, so they are a little more in touch with our world.  They are also they only game store in town that even knows what BoardGameGeek is!  It's more of a drive for us, but it's now my go-to game store.  Check it out!

We bought The Lord of the Rings: The Card Game there.  We then arrived home to find the box with Midgard and Phoenicia had arrived; these are two games I won off eBay for $10 plus $11 shipping.  It was listed at that price, and I threw in a bid on a lark.  Apparently I was the only bidder.  With those and Memoir '44 showing up on the doorstep as part of a game trade, I had a busy week with games!

It's Your Move!

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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Better Selection at Barnes and Noble

I stopped in Barnes and Noble by work the other day and was impressed with the fact that their game selection is getting better.  On the shelf was a lot of the usual suspects, but also Dominion, Pandemic, Settlers of Catan, Qwirkle and some other very good games.  They may be worth a stop if you are looking for a game to buy!

It's Your Move!

Friday, July 1, 2011

I am asking too much...

I have been listening to the Ludology Podcast to and from work.  There are several podcasts that I listen to regularly; this particular one is more of a once-in-a-while type of thing.  The topic was family games, and it ventured into a discussion on the developmental stages of children and what games work well at those stages.  I came to realize something in this podcast -- I am asking too much from my chess club kids.  Simply put, chess offers too many decisions with too many options that impact too many moves down the road for these kids, particularly the younger ones, to grasp.  I thought starting at 4th grade would allow for more cognitive ability, but I was wrong.  Some of the junior high kids should start to get it, but the younger ones, no.

I guess that really means I am a chess teacher, and not a chess coach.

It's Your Move!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Kids Games – Yes!; Movies – No!

It would make perfect sense to think a blog on casual and family gaming would include children’s games.  So, why haven’t I reviewed any?  Simply put, my son who is going on 14 years old has outgrown them, so I am really unfamiliar with any of the current crop of kid’s (under 10 years old) games.  I have reviewed Hey! That’s My Fish, but primarily because it works so well as an adult game too.  I may eventually do others, but it probably will never be a prominent feature.  My apologies.

It's a simple logo, but has lots of good info.
There are places to find out about this stuff, though.  The guys over at FatherGeek frequently cover children’s games on their blog.  However, if you are looking for a review site, rather than a blog, I would recommend KidGameRatings.  Here you can find games by age group, by name or search in various ways.  Like BoardGameGeek (BGG), it relies on user ratings, so these are real parents rating them.

Right on the front page is a short list of games that are appropriate for 2-3 year-olds, 4-5 year-olds, 6-7 year-olds, 8-9 year-olds, and kids aged 10 or more or 12 or more.  Just these lists of seven games in each age bracket make a quick birthday or Christmas list.  The last three lists are great games that really aren’t “kids” games, but also for adults.  (This is somewhat true of the 6-7 year-old list too.)  In fact, I own quite a few of them and trot them out for my game group. 

Clicking on “more” at the bottom of any of those lists brings up the search page.  In each case, it shows the same thing: all games sorted by minimum player age.  However, that’s also where it gets fun.  On this page, the viewer can put in a minimum age, a minimum rating, and a minimum number of ratings and get a more customized report.  There are headers that can be clicked for sorting, and a link is provided to each game’s BGG page. 

The actual “Search” page allows you to search for a specific game name or publisher name.  This is handy for finding out if you really want to give your child that copy of the Finding Nemo game, or if you will regret it.  Unfortunately, the database is not all-inclusive.  You won’t find Lucky Ducks, or the hint that the game goes off incessantly in the box and will drive everyone insane!

Nonetheless, the site is a wealth of information.  As fast as kids grow older (supposedly it’s at the same rate as parents, but I’m not sure I believe that!), the games they will be interested in will change quickly.  Soon it will be time to start the indoctrination  introduction to our adult gaming world.  They can play the “kid’s” games with their younger siblings or friends.

I only have one word of caution.  It was almost enough to keep me from writing about this site, but in the end, it’s not really about gaming, so I am okay with it.  This site also recommends the movie My Neighbor Totoro, which is AWFUL!  We rented it years ago, and it became a standing joke.  Really.  It ranks at the bottom with Cloverfield, which I saw last week and is easily the worst movie I have seen in the past ten years.

So read for the game reviews, but NOT the movies.

It’s Your Move!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Spiel des Jahres

Recently, the Spiel des Jahres nominees were announced.  What is the Spiel des Jahres, and why do we care?  I am glad you asked.

According to BoardGameGeek, the Spiel des Jahres (SdJ) is the “most prestigious award for board and card games, is awarded annually by a jury of German game critics.”  To be honest, sales statistics would definitely support this, since winning the SdJ will easily boost sales by a factor of 50!  There are other awards, such as the Mensa Award, but the SdJ is the one I look to see on a game box.   In order to qualify, the game must be published in Germany in the year it is nominated.  That’s specifically interesting here because this year’s nominees include a game that has been in the United States for several years, but only now published in Germany.

This year, the nominees are:
·         Forbidden Island – which I briefly reviewed a couple of months ago.
·         Asara – of which I have no personal knowledge.
·         Qwirkle – which I own and my wife and I both really enjoy.

Qwirkle has been available in the United States for some time, and at Target stores for at least a year.  I plan to review it in the next few posts.  I would be happy with either Forbidden Island or Qwirkle as the winner.

For casual and family gamers, this award is the mark of a game that’s an excellent choice.   I own several of these games, and all of the awardees I have played are truly fun games with meaningful choices.  At the same time, they are games that are accessible to nearly everyone.  I have reviewed one already, Ticket to Ride (2004), and we love it enough to have three versions and three expansions!  Other winners we own include Dominion (2009), Zooloretto (2007), Carcassonne (2001), The Settlers of Catan (1995), and Rummikub (1980).  Of these, I can personally and heartily recommend all but Zooloretto (only because I haven’t played it yet!) and Rummikub (which is good, but which can’t compete against so many other games). 

When the winner is announced, I will let everyone know.  In the meantime, it’s a pretty safe bet that any of the three nominees are great games to enjoy with your friends and family.  So pick one up from your favorite gaming source, and then…

It’s Your Move!