For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with games and puzzles. Here are some of the many ways that I have participated in this fine hobby.
For two years (until the advent of defective
yeti) I wrote a bimonthly games ezine entitled "Aces Up" There
I wrote reviews, articles, session reports, and posted original games that
I had invented. Most of the content that was on "Aces Up" can be
found below. (As I no longer maintain this site, I apologize in advance
for the many broken images you will find throughout the pages.)
And Games Enthusiasts League has been meeting in Seattle since 1997.
Originally consisting of a dozen Amazon.com employees and partners, the
group now has over 30 members, with a typical turn-out of 15 on any given
night. B.A.G.E.L. focuses on light "family" games, suitable
for play amongst friends and between brews. The current favorites
of the group include Call
of Florence and Settlers
of Catan. The bulk of the B.A.G.E.L. game library can be found
And you can read some older session reports over
Birthday Treasure Hunts and "The Bolivian Games"
Since 1993 I have held an annual birthday treasure hunt for my closest friends. Players assemble into teams and solve a series of clues (usually 5-8), each a puzzle or riddle which, when solved, reveals the location of the next. An example of a clue is my Infamous Xylophone Puzzle, which was found in my 1999 Hunt. Teams entered a classroom containing three toy xylophones and a tape player. Each bar on the xylophones was marked with a letter of the alphabet, and a repeating audio tape contained a 14-note "song" that had been played on a xylophone identical to those in the room. When a Hunter successfully played the 14-note song on one of the xylophones, they would simultaneously spell out a 14-letter message that lead to the location of the next clue. The problem was that, with up to three teams in the room at the same time, Hunters had difficulty discerning which notes were coming from the tape and which were being struck by their opponents. Possibly the most diabolical puzzle I have ever employed in one of my Hunts.
You can read recaps of the last three Treasure Hunts here:
I have created a number of original games.
Here's a few:
I have, in my day, reviewed quite a number
of games and game-related material. Here's a selection:
Words or Less
Lord of the Rings
Monsters Ravage America
Take it Easy
Titan the Arena
Web of Power
The Games Journal
Some articles (and satire) about the hobby:
For Boddy at The Morning News.
Updates to Classic Games
No Second Place 2002 Good Gift Games Guide.
Good Gift Games 2001
Good Gift Games 2000
The Presidential Election: A Game Review
The Emergency Gaming Kit
I used to be an active member of rec.games.board.
Then I switched to posting exclusively to the Spielfrieks
Yahoo! Group. I even wrote a text-only
filter for Spielfrieks to facilitate reading.
Over the years I have taught myself how to construct a wide variety of puzzles, from acrostics to cryptograms. While in Bolivia I hand-made crossword puzzles for the Peace Corps newsletter. I also had a monthly puzzle column in The Bolivian Times entitled "Mateo's Mindcandy". Furthermore, while an employee at Amazon.com I ran a "Puzzle of the Week" contest, in which hundreds of people participated. About half of the weekly P.O.W. puzzles were original creations.
Here a few examples of puzzles that appeared in the Mateo's Mindcandy.
Santos and Diablos
It's a common misconception that Santos and Diablos don't get along. In fact, they get along quite well -- as long as they don't talk politics.
Two Santos and two Diablos are seated around a square table, with one person at each of the cardinal directions (North, South, East and West). Everyone has made a statement which is recorded below. Bearing in mind that Diablos always lie and always drink whiskey, while Santos always tell the truth and always drink wine (in moderation, of course), can you determine which are the Santos, which are the Diablos, and where each person is seated?
A: "I'm sitting directly across from B. The person to my immediate left is drinking whiskey."
B: "I'm sitting directly across from D. The person to my immediate right is drinking whiskey."
C: "I'm sitting directly across from A. The person to my immediate right is drinking wine."
D: "I am not sitting in the northernmost position. The person to my immediate left is drinking wine."
A Dicey Proposition
[Prefatory Note: Cacho is a Bolivian dice game almost identical to Yatzee. On a turn, a player rolls five dice; he may then either stop rolling and score, or set aside any of the five dice and roll again. After the second roll the player again has the option to stop and score, or set aside any of the five dice and roll again. After the third and final roll the player must stop and score. Having five dice of the same value (i.e., a Yatzee) is called a "Grande". Furthermore, there are three kinds of "Especials": A "Box" (four dice showing the same value, e.g. 1-3-3-3-3), an "Full House" (two dice showing one value and three dice showing another, e.g. 1-1-3-3-3) and an "Ladder" (all five dice showing consecutive numbers, i.e. 1-2-3-4-5 or 2-3-4-5-6).]
My friend Don Clemente has an extremely strange memory: he tends to remember specific, unimportant details while forgetting all the relevant facts. After a soccer game and he could tell you how many times the ball had been passed but not the final score.
Here's another example. Clemente and I went to a bar to play cacho. I told him to go ahead and take his first turn while I went to get some beer. When I returned a moment later, I set down the brew and scooped up the dice without looking at them. "So, what did you get?" I asked.
"Toast me!" Clemente beamed. "I got a Grande!"
I reluctantly hoisted my glass, then asked "What number did you get your Grande in -- five ones, five twos ... ?"
"Well," he said slowly, "I don't quite recall. But I'll tell you what I do remember. I got my Grande on two rolls -- I didn't even need the third. After my first roll I saw that all of the values on the dice were even. Or maybe all the values were odd -- I'm not sure which -- but I am certain that it was one way or the other: all even or all odd. Anyway, since I hadn't rolled a Grande or an Especial, I set aside two dice and rerolled the other three. On my second throw I rolled a three-of-a-kind; and this, combined with the two dice I'd previously set aside, game me a Grande."
I thought for a moment, and then said "Jeeze, Clemente -- that doesn't tell me anything. Don't you remember anything else?"
"Oh, yes," he suddenly exclaimed. "I noticed that the total of all five dice after my first throw was exactly equal to the total of the three rerolled dice after my second throw."
Well, it took me a while, but with this
information I was finally able to tell what number he had got his Grande
in. Can you?
There exists a thing with a five-letter name. And if you switch the second and fourth letter in this name, you spell the material that this thing is often made of in Bolivia. What is the thing?