Archive for the 'Games' Category

Just a DASH of Nerd

Friday, May 13th, 2011

We don’t have a lot of magazines in the bathrooms at work.  They tend to linger for months, or even years.  One day, many years ago, I started leafing through an old issue of Rolling Stone while taking care of business and I came across this article (pages 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) about something called The Game. Ever since then I’ve wanted to play in one of these Games — yes, with a capital ‘G,’ and I think it’s warranted. Unfortunately, they’re never held in Chicago, they cost thousands of dollars, and I think they’ve been discontinued due to an injury.

The crux of the idea is this: Teams gather at a starting line where they are given a puzzle.  The solution to the puzzle leads them to another location where they encounter another puzzle, and so on until they reach the finish line.  It sounds simple enough, except the puzzles are so complicated they often take hours to solve.  These games tend to attract a somewhat narrow sliver of the populace, heavy on computer programmers, mathematicians, and technical-types.  In other words, nerds.

My wife, planning an elaborate game of her own, heard about a puzzle hunt being run in Chicago — much less elaborate than The Game, but the same general idea.  Knowing my obsession, she encouraged me to play.

DASH or “Different Area Same Hunt” is a game run simultaneously in several different cities. Players in each city are given the same clues, but are sent to different locations.

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Journey to the End of the Night 2011 Recap

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Every year I worry about how Journey to the End of the Night is going to work out and every year it’s fantastic.  Once again I was a staff chaser — this time chasing people in a suit.  It wasn’t as bizarre as the gorilla, but runners rarely thought a dude in a suit would start chasing them.

I’d say my favorite moment was standing alone on the beach between checkpoint 2B and checkpoint 3 and chasing people across that big sandy expanse.

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Journey to the End of the Night 2011

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

This is my third year helping out with the Chicago edition of Journey to the End of the Night and it keeps getting bigger and bigger.  The first year (that I missed) had 75 people.  In 2009 we had 271 players.  In 2010 there were 404.  This year we have over 800 people saying they’re going to play on the Facebook group.  That’s some exponential growth, yo!

While the game itself is quite clever, what makes it great is how unusual it is to get hundreds of people together to play a game for no greater purpose.  I had the following conversation with someone at work:

Me: You should come it’s gonna be fun.
C: I think I will.  When do I need to sign up?
Me: You don’t.  Just show up.
C: How much does it cost?
Me: It’s free.
(C in dumbfounded silence.)

If you’re interested and want to play, the game starts at Welles Park at Montrose and Western at 7PM on Saturday May 7th, 2011.

I will be a staff chaser again this year.  I need to come up with a better costume than the gorilla.

The Best Hands

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

My brothers used to play a game they called “Hands.”  It involved throwing a foam ball — the “Hands” ball — at each other as hard as possible and seeing who could catch it.  Whoever dropped it the least would declare that they have “The best hands in the family.”

I didn’t play the game much.  I often dropped the ball.

This weekend my family was at a swimming pool and we ended up playing yet another stupid game.  One person would jump in the pool while four others threw an assortment of balls at them.  The goal was to catch one mid-jump.  Mostly, I was just trying to protect the face.

On my turn, a basketball bounced off my pinkie leaving it freakishly dislocated.  While my parents’ friend popped it back into place I joked about how I should have caught the ball, mentioning that I certainly don’t have the best hands in the family.

Driving home that night, I got a call from my dad to see how my pinkie was healing and while we were talking I once again mentioned my lackluster coordination.

Dad: Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Evan: I’m not.  I’m just saying I don’t have the best hands in the family.
Dad: Well… you don’t.  I do.

Have Fun Storming The Fake Castle!

Monday, June 15th, 2009

I was in Boise for business and after we had finished for the day I went running along the Boise River.  It’s a beautiful city with mountains and streams and all those other things Chicago lacks.

Then I ran by this and I liked Boise even more:


I’ve never seen live action role-playing (LARPing) in person before.  It looks… pretty… fun.

“Oh No, Not the Gorilla Again!”

Monday, May 4th, 2009

Journey to the End of the Night 2009 has come and gone and no one could have asked for better weather… unless you were sprinting as fast as you could wearing a gorilla suit. In that case you might have preferred it a bit cooler.



I think my favorite part of the whole night might have been the bus ride home with blue and pink ribboned Chicagoans boarding and disembarking, all sharing stories of their adventures that night.

Other fond memories:

  • Accidentally chasing three dudes who weren’t actually playing the game — possibly freaking them out a little bit.
  • A cop yelling out his car at me… only to ask me where my gorilla mask was. (I would have worn it but I couldn’t see anything out of it. Also, it smelled weird.)
  • Chasing people through Bridgeport where it was nice to see that kids still actually play outside in their neighborhood. They loved the idea of our game so I gave them the few blue armbands I had collected and told them if they wore them they might get chased by people with pink armbands. They ended up just running from anyone who came by.

Below is a map of the checkpoints for anyone who might be interested. As a “staff chaser” my job was to patrol certain choke points and make people run.

View Journey to the End of the Night 2009 in a larger map 

Journey To The End of the Night 2009

Friday, May 1st, 2009


I was worried when Dax moved away from Chicago he’d leave behind a bunch of people who still wanted to play the crazy games he organized with no one to run them.  

Luckily, Dax decided to come back to Chicago this weekend and run his game, “Journey to the End of the Night.”  I’ll be helping him out by chasing people around.  I may or may not be dressed in a ridiculous costume which may or may not resemble food.

The game involves running through the city to different checkpoints without getting tagged by a chaser.  If you do, you become a chaser yourself, and the beat goes on. 

The game will start Saturday, May 2nd at 6.30 PM at 280 S. Columbus.  Just show up and be prepared to run.  You’ll be given maps and other information at the starting line.

What’s that you say?  You’re not in Chicago?  You live in DC?  Well, there’s a simultaneous game in Washington on May 2nd as well!  

Read more here: Journey to the End of the Night

Add More Rules

Monday, January 26th, 2009


A little over a year ago, Dave got a card game called Munchkin.  We played it and it was fun.  Then he got an expansion pack and it was even more fun.  Thirteen expansions later, the game has gotten a little complicated.  We had to create an elaborate system of bottlecaps just to organize the discard pile

While I was writing this, I remembered writing a very similar post about the Order of the Stick game – another humorous, complicated, card-based game that pokes fun at Dungeons and Dragons.  What is with these games?

The game pictured above took over 5 hours.  Good grief!

The Architect and The Urchin

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Dax’s street game, “The Architect and the Urchin” was this weekend.  The game goes something like this:

Every player is given a nametag that they keep on their right wrist.  The goal of the game is to collect as many nametags as possible.  Nametags are collected by taggin players on other teams.

There are three teams, Orange, Purple, and Yellow, each identified by a colored armband.  The Orange team can tag people on the Yellow team, the Yellow team can tag people on the Purple team and the Purple team can tag people on the Orange team.

Each player is given a map with 12 locations on it.  At each location is a stamp.  You need at least 9 stamps to cross the finish line.

Only travel by foot or on CTA trains is allowed.

Shama and I were on the Orange team and we gathered the mysterious Kevin into our cohort as his friend didn’t show up.  We all decided we wanted to try and get the award for getting all 12 stamps as quickly as possible.  We figured most people would start south and work their way north towards the finish line.  Our plan was to take a train north and then do a big loop.

Here’s the route we ended up taking, complete with checkpoints and annotations. Click on “view larger map” to see the details:

View Larger Map

When we finally huffed into the finish line, we were told we were the 7th, 8th, and 9th to finish with all 12 stamps.  Not to bad for over 100 players.  I also won second in the “best photo” contest for this shot of Shama jumping a fence:


I Think I Met The Bobby Fischer of Rochambeau

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

Dax has developed a “street game” called The Architect & The Urchin.  Here are the rules.  This is the greatest thing ever.

Last night Dax had a practice session to help him work out some of the kinks.  A bunch of people met on the steps of the Art Institute and played some tag, sardines, and other games white people like.  I’ve always loved sardines.  We only played one round beacuse the hider did such a good job — lying in tall grass of the garden outside the Art Institute.  It took over an hour for everyone to find him.  I was in the middle of the pack, but Shama was one of the first, using a tried and true tactic that my friend Eddie used to use when we played as kids: act like a weirdo and listen for snickers.  

Hiding in the garden

I think my favorite moment of the evening was when two people in our group played rock-paper-scissors to decide who would hide first.  After a decisive victory,  a stranger ran across Michigan Ave.

Stranger: Who won?
Winner: I did.
Stranger (holding out his hand to play): Let’s go. 

The mysterious stranger won three straight games, pumped his fist (rock?) and then walked off down the street.  When you’ve got it, flaunt it… I guess.

Sometimes It’s Good to Be the Dummy

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Sometimes when my aunt Renee is in town she and I play bridge with my grandparents.  Neither of us understand the game all that well, but it’s fun to see my grandparents so competitive.  Even my grandfather, whose age is catching up with him, remembers every bid and trick.

My grandma (who was my partner) made some aside comments to Renee in the middle of a hand.

Renee: I think you’re trying to trick me.
(A few cards later)
Renee: You were trying to trick me.

At this point, my grandmother stood up and did a little dance on her way to making “game.”

The skill in bridge centers around giving subtle hints to your partner through bids and leads.  I’d often ask my grandma, “What do you think I have?”  As I eyed the glut of clubs in my hand she’d say something like, “10-12 points and at least 4 hearts.”  Whoops.  By the end of the night we started to get on the same page, although I spent much of it as the dummy.

What Happens At A Software Company When The Power Goes Out

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

The construction workers constantly jackhammering outside of Jellyvision’s offices finally did it. We heard a particularly loud crash and then all the power in the building went out. This actually happened last year too when a crane knocked down a power line a block away. (Hooray!) I love it when the power goes out. It forces you to change your behavior for a little while and I think that’s nice — especially when your new behavior involves playing Mafia with all your coworkers.

Unlike Celebrity, Mafia has a comprehensive Wikipedia entry written by someone who isn’t me. (Although I was prepared to do it if one didn’t exist. Here’s a fun little experiment: See if you can find something that doesn’t have a Wikipedia page.) If you don’t know how the game works, you can read about it there.

Like last year, Amanda dominated the game. She is the most ruthless murderer I’ve ever met — playing dumb, giggling, spreading rumors — all of it coldly calculated to manipulate us while she quietly kills the entire town.

I’m A Celebrity Celebrity

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

Last night Karen and Gordon invited some folks over to play Celebrity. As their friend Pete was explaining the rules I realized that he was much more succinct and eloquent than I was when I wrote the Wikipedia entry for Celebrity. Yes, that’s right. I’m eFamous.

I went back and looked at it today.  There have been 44 edits since my initial post, but it looks like my description has remained largely intact.  I was especially pleased to see that my example of a fictional character, A.C. Slater, hadn’t been changed.

A Post of Healing Light Wounds

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

Through a strange series of events (I don’t know, I wasn’t really paying attention) I ended up in possession of the most confusing board game ever: The Order of the Stick: Dungeon of Dorukan. The rule book is 30 pages long and there are about a blablillion miscellaneous cards of various sizes, not to mention the hefty bag of infant-choking plastic and glass tokens to deal with.

We spent about 45 minutes setting up the game and reading the rules before playing two turns and then retiring to watch “The Deadliest Catch.” Someday, though, I’m gonna play the crap out of this game. Pages 17-20 of the rulebook look especially fun.

The game is based on a comic that parodies Dungeons & Dragons, and now that I’ve spent the last three hours reading it, I’m reminded how much fun it is to play Dungeons & Dragons. I haven’t played since… well… honestly, it was just a couple months ago. I was playing with a chaotic-good barbarian gnome whose name, like most gnome names, is too complicated for me to write. He was a spry little fellow until he had an unfortunate run-in with a donkey (18xp!) that I really can’t get into right now.

Not long after our first adventure the dungeon master’s wife gave birth, thus abandoning the poor gnome to a purgatory of level 2 mediocrity. He was never heard from again.

P.S.  I think this might be the first time the phrase “dungeon master’s wife” has ever been written.