Octopus's Garden Issue Thirty-Five

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HELLO, good evening and welcome to issue 35 of Octopus's Garden, the subzeen with its very own letter column. An html version of this subzeen is available on the Web at http://www.manorcon.demon.co.uk/octopus/index.html. It's also sent to the TAP mailing list, which you can join automatically by sending the message 'subscribe tap' to majordomo@igo.org. The message 'unsubscribe tap' sent to the same address will get you off the mailing list.


If you want in on either of these lists, contact me at octopus@manorcon.demon.co.uk.

I will also be looking for stand-bys for both the above games, but we'll get the lists filled first before we worry about that. Houserules are on the web at http://www.manorcon.demon.co.uk/octopus/rr.html, but are pretty much standard British rules (20/10 scoring, enter 4 from 7 races), except I use stand-bys. We won't bother with gamefees or deposits for either of these games.


Mike Barno writes :

Will the Tennessee-Kentucky game also use leapfrog rules? I haven't seen the TK map but I assume it has a high hill density. I might play or standby for this (or in emergency for Tyne-Tees where I don't know the area at all - my British geography is mostly limited to British Rails and Kingmaker and Britannia). Jim-Bob has credit for me and could put that thru the ISE to cover costs of getting me a map if we do this.

I've played postal RR under James Goode, Paul Gardner, and Richard Weiss so I should have no problem with a net-based game. Thanx for keeping things going.

((The TK map doesn't actually have that many hills - there is a clump in the middle that are, for all practical purposes, too expensive to build through, but otherwise it's not too bad. Part of the beauty of the Railway Rivals game system is that the maps are slightly abstract, and there is no absolute guideline as to what height land has to be in reality to become a hill hex on a map. I am convinced that, in the same way that Picasso went through a Blue Period, David Watts went through a Hill Period. You end up with maps like London & the West (LW), featuring the "Dorset Alps" and the "Hampshire Rockies" (It's still an excellently playable map, however, provided you use leapfrog). By contrast, TK is comparatively light of hill hexes, especially when you consider the reality it represents.))

((Don't worry about gamefees - my only cost is getting the maps in the first place, which is pretty negligible. I fully expect to have at least that much value in entertainment as we go along...))

Mike Barno writes :

Okay, then sign me up for the TK game and you can use me as a standby for any other map.

I agree on the "flexibility" of RR hill assignments. By the same token, one hex is obviously scaled to a different size piece of land on the Guam map than on the US Discovery map, and each plays well without needing to adjust the costs or payouts proportionally. As in Diplomacy, there are merits to a simple system.

Jim Burgess writes :

Yes, I can't tell you how many people lately have told me that after trying variants, the original Dip is still the best.

((Well, as a former Miller Number Custodian and even briefly UK Variant Bank Custodian, I suppose I'd better rise to the bait. Diplomacy variants are one of the classic examples of Andy Warhol's statement that "99% of everything is rubbish." Even amongst the 1% of good stuff (a high proportion of which have "Designed by Fred C. Davis Jr." on them somewhere), the appeal is not something necessarily better, just something different. Ben 'n' Jerry's (politically correct ice-cream) comes in different flavours, after all.))

Mike Barno writes :

Evaluating entertainment benefits in offsetting costs? I'm liable to write such confusing and silly press that you'll want to charge me extra.

((Press in Railway Rivals has never seemed to be a big thing - I suspect this dates back to David Watts's original adjudication layout style in Rostherne Games Review (or before that in Railway Rivals Recorder), when he could eaisly fit 6 games on one page. No room for press then! Personally, I love press, and with electronic publishing I don't even have to worry about the extra copying costs - although Jim might...))

Jim Burgess writes :

I think both of you should know by now what I think of press.....GO FOR IT!!!!

Mike Barno writes :

And YAY for internet connectedness so people on different continents can play games more often than one WorldDipCon every few years. (Snail-mail overseas is so slow and inconsistent that I didn't play in non-northamerican zines when that was the only way to communicate; there were a lot of people like Malcolm Smith with whom I would have gamed more if e-mail were practical then.)

((I suspect one of the great "What-Ifs" of history will be "What if the Internet had taken off nn years earlier?" where nn is any number you care to name between 5 and 500... Actually, I seem to remember reading a review of a book called something like "The Victorian Internet" about the early days of the Telegraph, drawing parallels with the more modern medium - something developed by the government for quasi-millitary purposes, being taken forward by hobbyists, before becoming a mass medium. A bit stretched, maybe, but an interesting analysis.))

Jim Burgess writes :

I agree. I am actually of the opinion that the Internet will be seen someday as part of a slight blip on a steep exponential growth curve for the growth of intraplanetary communication and connectivity. (note carefully that I used the prefix "intra") I think it's safe to say that we're still on the flat of the interplanetary communication growth curve.

Berry Renken writes :

If Bus Boss scoring is used (as I like), then entering all the races you can reasonably partake in isn't silly at all. Already in the building stages the game then boils down to getting a good network covering as much of the map as possible, instead of a perfect network covering only part of the map (which to me is much less fun). Besides, although I'm (very happy to be) not American, I hate unnecessary limits too. Dutch offices and shops are almost only open during exactly the time I like to be asleep!

((I must admit, the idea of being able to get a spare ink-jet cartridge at 2 a.m. from the nearest all-night supermarket makes me feel very decedent, regardless of whether I actually need them or not! ))

((As you say, using Bus Boss scoring makes Railway Rivals a very different game. Because you get at least some points no matter where you finish (as opposed to the normal 20 points for first, 10 points for second, and nothing for anyone else), I can see that it makes economic sense to enter a lot more races, if only to gain (say) two points for coming last - and, more critically, deprive your rivals of points. Does this also mean you tend to get more "upsets" with Bus Boss scoring? I can imagine a scenario where a player enters a race paying one point, expecting last place for a net gain of one point. However, there is always a chance that he finishes 1st or 2nd due to lucky dice rolls. In a 20/10 scoring game, that player would never have entered the race in the first place, unless, like Dirty Harry, he felt "lucky, Punk..."))

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