Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Political Bunker: Fallout

I usually wait a few days before posting after an election, because votes continue to come in (deadline was postmarked on Election Day), and there are usually one or two contests that are close enough to wait things out. and even in this small but important collection of contests, this has happened. So take a look.

King County Proposition No. 1 Regular Property Tax Levy Automated Fingerprint Identification System Services - Approved. Here's an interesting factoid. The tax is a LOWER percentage than the last time around, because property values have gone up. Which means they can get the same amount of money from lower rates. You're still paying more money, if you're a property owner, because the property is supposedly worth more.

United States Senator - Maria Cantwell came in with 55%of the vote. Now, in a primary, 50%+ is considered "comfortable". This is a pretty good indicator, with the fact there were 28 OTHER candidates in the race (because there were no other big state races for Goodspaceguy to run in). The Republican standard-bearer, Trump-apologist Susan Hutchinson, got 24%, which bodes ill for the GOP.

United States Representative District 9 -  Here's the one that was hanging fire, and I will admit it surprised me as well. Incumbent Adam Smith looked like he would square off against perennial opponent Doug Basler, but a late surge put progressive Sarah Smith in the number two position. So we have a situation for a US posting with .... no Republicans. I see this one as a win-win situation.

State Legislature District No. 11, positions 1 and 2 - Zack Hudgins and Steve Berquist -  but they were unopposed, so that should not be a question.

Elsewhere?

Steve Hobbs won the 44th with 55%, which is good for a incumbent, more challenging for his opponent.

US Representative District No.  8  - Dino Rossi versus Kim Schrier (likely - this one is truly hanging fire, and we may have to wait until Monday to get the final). Dino got a tepid 43% percent, which makes him vulnerable (more so as primaries do well for Republican, while the general tends to get more people, and therefore more Dems). Mr Rossi, who has traditionally depended on saying little and letting the Seattle Times do his dirty work, has his job cut out for him. Good thing he has a lot of out of state money to work with.

Actually, across the state, the Republicans have, to be kind, "underperformed". Stalwarts are getting lower numbers, and districts that have been reliably red are considered suddenly in play. The supposed "Blue Wave" seems to be alive and well in Washington, but in all things politics, it all depends on what happens between now and November.

That's it until the ballots for the general election drop. See you then.

More later,

Friday, August 03, 2018

The Gaming News

Ah, GenCon weekend. Not going this year, but when I do go, I hunt down the small companies that I have never heard of before and check out their projects. These days, with the Internets and the Amazons, the throw-weight of smaller companies is a lot greater, but the chance to actually physically check out the product before purchase has a thrill. Also, the person you're buying it from may just be the designer.

Yet with GenCon there has been a sudden wave of activities on the Kickstarters and elsewhere for new products, many of which by people I know and some of which I have actually supported. Let's take a look.

First off, Let me start off with a Humble Bundle. Humble Bundles are collections of electronic media (games, pdfs, e-books) that are offered a low, low price (though you can make it higher and get more). The proceeds go to good causes. In this case the causes are Girls Make Games and Girls Who Code, both of which work to expand gender diversity in pretty male-overwhelmed areas. The books are a huge selection of books on game design, some of which I own, and some of which I have contributed to. AND this particular bundle has new, just published material by Mike Selinker.

If you're also looking for more books about games, take a gander at Your Best Game Ever from our friends at Monte Cook Games. It not rules for playing a game, but advice on how to use those rules for, well, your best game ever. Usable both by new players and old, YBGE is already blowing up in funding. Plus, if you want rules with your tools, they are offering the revised Cypher System Rulebook, which is MCG's "universal" system. Check it out.

Also in Kickstarter (and blowing up even bigger) is The Expanse RPG. I got into The Expanse from the Lovely Bride - she tends to Tivo entire seasons and binge-watch, and my attention is collateral damage (I would walk into the room, sit down, and then cross-examine her at the commercial breaks). It's a great TV show, but it is based on books (no, really, books. With words and letters and chapter and everything). And The Expanse RPG is based on those books. It uses Green Ronin's AGE system, but sounds like it has a couple neat tweaks to it.

Also on the Kickstarter is Demon City, by Zak Smith. Call it experimental gestalt weird fantasy. Call it millennial urban horror. I really liked both the presentation and the content of Red and Pleasant Land (Alice's adventures in a D&D universe - better than the old Through the Magic Mirror), and Maze of the Blue Medusa (which neatly juggles a bunch of different subplots into one major adventure). Both readable and playable. So I expect to like this as well.

Staying with Kickstarter, but moving into the past, Steve Jackson is bringing back The Fantasy Trip, which was one of those foundational games back in the early days of D&D/ Originally micro-games with paper chips and maps, it was a hex-based combat game that simply recapitulated the nature of fantasy combat. At a time when D&D options were just starting to sprout up, it took the dungeon to the boardgame long, long before 4th Edition. I think I still have a copy or two in the basement. This looks like a faithful recreation of the original, more of an update than a complete revision.

And ALSO from Kickstarter AND with a healthy whiff of updated nostalgia, we have Over the Edge, which back in the day was a brilliant combo of mechanics and world-building. Imagine D&D if Hunter Thompson had teamed up with Gygax and Arneson, and if Bill Burroughs replaced Edgar Rice Burroughs in Appendix N. Unlike The Fantasy Trip, this is an all-new edition set on the island nation of Al Amarja, and I want to see what they've done with it.

Fine, you want some games that are already finished and available? Do you have IOs on your tablet or phone? Take a look at the Cthulhu Chronicles, which gives you solitaire adventures in the Mythos/ There are both transposed Call of Cthulhu adventures (Alone against the Flames) and original material here. The first three sanity-shattering adventures for the day are free! The classic nature of the old choose-your-own-adventure books with modern-age technology! Indulge your Lovecraftian desires!

And since I'm still talking about games, how about some fanzines? I would mention both Warlock #6 (from Kobold Press) which deals with the City of Brass and The Excellent Traveling Volume #8, a wonderful Empire of the Petal Throne 'zine. The mere fact I have articles in both of them has nothing to do with my hearty recommendation.

And finally, let me mention Dungeons & Dragons Art and Arcana: A Visual History, which is NOT out yet, will prove to be the ultimate source for art in the golden age of TSR. The authors are recognized masters in reporting the history of D&D, and, I am have been informed, the book will include several pieces of art from the Private Collection at Grubb Street. I'm really looking forward to this!

And with that, the Gaming News wraps up. More later,





Saturday, July 28, 2018

Game: Boss Tweed

Very Gangs of New York
Tammany Hall designed by Doug Eckhart, Pandasaurus Games 2012

Let's move on from politics to ... a game about politics!

Provenance: This is the Kickstarted version of the game. I purchased it at North Texas RPG Con as my "Big Buy" of the con (I try to limit myself to one, because I have to lug it back). Brought it out for our Monday Night gaming group.

Review: We've played this game three times, and there are issues. But let me give you the lay of the land before I start complaining:

Tammany Hall is a unit-placement game set in New York City in the mid-19th century. This was the time of the rise of the great urban political machines, and I am a fan of the era, and in particular William Marcy (actually Maegar) Tweed, who was the "Boss" of Tammany Hall and the Democratic Party in post-bellum NYC. The board is lower Manhattan, divided into three districts with numerous wards in each district.

A pool of immigrants shows up at Convent Gardens (this is pre-Ellis Island) - four national groupings - Italian, Irish, German, and English (different colored cubes). You have a hefty number of "Ward Bosses" (meeples) and can put a ward boss and an immigrant cube in a ward, OR put two ward bosses in one or more wards. Easy peasy. If you put an immigrant cube, you get a "favor token" for that immigrant group.

After four turns (years) you have a vote for mayor. You only look at the ward bosses in each ward, since they deliver the votes. No other ward bosses? You get the ward. Other ward bosses in the ward, you square off, secretly adding appropriate favor tokens to the number of ward bosses you have. High score gets the ward. Guy with the most wards (and there are all sorts of tie-breakers) gets to be mayor.

The mayor then hands out the city offices, which allow to gain free favor tokens, lock down wards, or move or remove immigrant tokens. Everyone gets an office, so the trick is to hand out the more powerful ones to people you think you can trust. After four elections (16 turns), the game ends and the high score (VPs awarded after every election) wins.

And that's pretty much it. But after playing it three times, I get the feeling we're doing something wrong. And that's not good. First game we were being polite and learning the rules. Second game we got into a little more deal-making. Third game we tried to dogpile on the leader. None of these worked out that well, and in the last two we had to call time (a two hour playing time is a bit rosy in its estimation).

Part of the problem is that mayor is a very powerful office, long-term. Short-term it sucks - everyone else has something they can do. You just get 3 victory points. But since you have to control a lot of wards to get to be mayor, you have more victory points already. The end result is that the mayor (particularly if you can get re-elected) gets a huge head-start on everyone else. The rich get richer. In each game, we had the first mayor get out front, a second place player at about half points, and the rest in a mob at the bottom.

The idea that it is clear that taking down the mayor is a catch-up feature, but it is very hard to do. Challenging other wards requires effort and resources that might be spent better elsewhere, and leaves both combatants weakened. There is a "scandal" mechanic that can take out enemy ward bosses, but it requires a layout of future victory points and favor chips, and requires you have a good setup in the first place. The ideal form of combat is "Let's you and him fight" - getting two opponents to take each other on while you hold down your own territory.

Dealmaking is also a challenge, in that there is precious little you can actually trade at the time. You can't trade the favor tokens, and there is no rule to punish deal-breakers (other than everyone saying, "Oh, Stan! He broke a deal once! Let's you and him fight!"). And since you have to give out all the offices, you have to give good powers to less-than-responsible people.

The quality of the game components are excellent, the rules are fairly clear, and most of the information you need is repeated on the game board. It has an excellent physical design. Tammany Hall gets good reviews, in particular from those that claim that it will turn players against each other faster than Monopoly, Diplomacy, or Kingmaker. I'm not seeing it. Our group gave it the old college try, but it came up empty. Not a bad game, but not as amazing as I expected. Maybe I should check out its ancestor, El Grande, to see if I'm missing something, or if it is just us.

More later.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Jeff Recommend: Primary 2018

OK, its pretty brief up here on Grubbstreet, so let me set things down for you.

Get your ballots in by 7 August. But do it now. Avoid the rush.
You'd have to pay for postage. Drop it in the mail. That simple. Or you can do a drop-box in King County..
But just vote, dammit.
No Republicans.

King County Proposition No. 1 Regular Property Tax Levy Automated Fingerprint Identification System Services - Approved, I guess.

United States Senator - Maria Cantwell, better than all 28 other options.

United States Representative District 9 - Sarah Smith (though that other Smith is OK). And hey, she did an AMA on Reddit.

State Legislature District No. 11, positions 1 and 2 - Zack Hudgins and Steve Berquist - so good at their jobs that no one wants to run against them.

And here are a few that I'm not voting on Usually I don't poach on other areas, but these merit some attention.

State Legislature District No. 44 - Steve Hobbs. Impressive. Did I mention he's part of a gaming tabletop podcast, the Geeks of Cascadia?

US Representative District No.  8  - Not Dino Rossi. This blog cut its teeth on he disastrous run for governor and resulting lawsuit. There are three good Dems running against him, and it would be great if Rossi didn't even make the cut. Check out Jason Riettereiser, Kim Schrier,  and Shannon Hader. I lean towards Hader, but I'm not voting in this one. And it would hilarious if Rossi didn't even get out of the Primary.

We will tune in after the election for the final count.

More later,

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Political Bunker: Proposition No. 1

The primary ballot is actually pretty short this time, and we're already down to the county measure propositions. And there is only one of them - Proposition No. 1 (not to be confused with OTHER Proposition No. 1s you may encounter), Regular Property Tax Levy Automated Fingerprint Identification System Services. It replaces an existing levy and is meant to fund and upgrade AFIS and other identification programs.

And I say Approved, but I my heart just isn't in it. I guess I am suffering from tax fatigue, as so many different  worthy measures come to the taxpayers with their begging bowls for funding. Its like when ALL of friends in the office are selling candy for their kids' school bands. I mean, this sounds important, and if its important, shouldn't it be in the budget to start with? Do we need another revenue stream, which has turned into a regular avenue for funding attractive budget items?

So, yeah, Approved, but even I am getting tired of this.

More later,

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Political Bunker: State Reps, District 11

The 11th district starts east of Lake Young and and runs up to Sodo along the I-5 corridor (which means it is most of my morning commuter) It is a long, spindly thing, and its state senator is Bob Hasegawa, who's not up for re-election this year. It's State Reps are Zack Hudgins and Steve Bergquist, who are. And running against them is ...

Nobody. Nobody? No Chamber-of-Commerce-endorsed Republican? No newly minted Libertarian who is still reading the welcome-to-the-cause literature? Not even a challenge from the left?

OK, then. Zack Hudgins and Steve Berquist. So good that even the GOP wants you to vote for them.

But while I'm here, let me credit the state legislature for actually doing things this session. Not everything I want, but at least it has been progress, over the previous, supposedly bipartisan, deadlocked sessions. A couple things that were pretty dumb, but actually the average of those was lower than usual. So, yeah. Go team.

And even though I'm not voting in this particular election - here's a nod for Steve Hobbs down in the 44th, around Lake Stevens and Mill Creek. I had the chance to talk with the incumbent a few weeks back, and found him to be knowledgeable and engaged with the issues. He's a little more moderate to my tastes, particularly on fiscal issues, but he impressed the heck out of me with the depth of his understanding in a variety of fields. Plus he's a gamer AND he has a podcast. So if you're in the fighting 44th, vote Hobbs.

More later,

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Political Bunker: US Representative District 9

Adam Smith has done a dandy job in the redistricted 9th, dealing with the ever-spreading, new-and-improved swamp in DC. And should he be the sole Democrat on the list this fall, I'll be glad to endorse him. But a stronger choice is another Smith, Sarah Smith. She's running as a anti-war progressive Democrat (Hey kids, remember when we had TIME to be anti-war?), and one of Mr. Smith's weaknesses is that he is deep in the pocket of the Military Industrial Complex, a remnant of when his district included Fort Lewis.

The third candidate, Doug Basler of the GOP, runs a wanna-be InfoWars radio program. And you know how well THAT serves the body politic. It would be great to see the two Smiths duke it out this fall, so I'm supporting Sarah in the primary.

More later,