trainsEarlier this month a couple of dedicated Worcester Polytechnic Institute students put together some visualizations of Boston’s MBTA’s movement of people around the city. They have charts showing the on-time performance of trains. They have interactive items to see where your particular commute falls in the grand scheme of things. And they have all the stations ranked by how busy they are with people going in and out.

Few things to note: This data is for 1 month: February 2014. There is no info on the Green Line (not provided by the MBTA — They’re probably afraid to see how bad it really is) or the Commuter Rail (they focused on subway), which is sad, because I think those 2 lines are some of the worst offenders.

If you’re a software person and really want to know how these guys got this all set up, check out their handout.

Sorry for the lack of posts this past week, I was traveling and learning the ins and outs of what’s involved in buying a house (apparently, it’s a whole lot. Kind of like people care when dealing with large sums of money).

Here’s a quick little piece by New York’s NPR station on board games:

 

TTDM Logo

This is the TTDM logo, but I’m pretty sure none of these games have a D20 in them.

The folks behind Cards Against Humanity have set up a game design contest called Tabletop Death Match. What they did was put out an open call for game designs. They got over 500 submissions. They picked their top 16 games that intrigued them from that giant pile and invited the creators to pitch their game at GenCon last year. They got to meet with the other finalists, get some play tests done and pitch their game. That pitch was recorded and have been put out as episodes (I think it was 2 a week for 8 weeks).

All 16 pitch episodes are out. They only thing left is to reveal the winner and give them a part of the CAH booth at this year’s GenCon in August. I figure before the final episode is aired today, I’d give my thoughts (one or two sentences) based solely on watching the videos.

Outer Earth – The art design is super early, but I really like the way the cards work together: The whole pipe thing and the connections.

Jupiter Deep – These hipsters didn’t really excite me with their pandemic in space game.

Grow – The whole model building and growing thing looked really cool. It’s probably not a game I’d play, but it looks nice.

Rocket Wreckers – Meh. The theme and the game both don’t appeal to me very much.

Pack the Pack - Could be an interesting little Tetris-like filler game.

Cool Table - OK theme and OK rules. Nothing stands out for me.

Discount Salmon - The designer team is very cute, but I hate simultaneous speed-based games.

Right of Succession - Seems like one of those complicated games that I would like and find nobody to play with. The idea of having an evolving family where you keep part of the previous generation moving forward is cool.

Penny Press - The theme seems really cool on this one. There may be some gameplay issues to work out with more playtesting, but I think there’s some good bones here.

Installation 42 - I don’t know how I feel about the idea of a battle deck builder game. I do like shifting way to add cards to your deck. Could make for an interesting game.

Fart Party - Dumb game. Great name.

What the Flock?! - Could be a cute puzzly bird game. So many puns!

Wizard Dodgeball - I love the idea of a wizard dodgeball game, but I don’t know if this game is the way to do it.

The Shadow over Westminster - I don’t know why, but this game just doesn’t grab me. Just a co-op you vs. the game. Maybe it needs a traitor in the agency… Cuz then I’d be all over it.

The Jane Austen Card Game - I don’t know how well the game works, but the theme of being a Jane Austen lady trying to out-do the other ladies for the best man.

The Amberden Affair - Looks like a game I’d play… You can play with a British Accent and there is a traitor among your ranks. What I don’t like is the whole simultaneous play, but at least it’s not speed based.

Now I wait to see if they reveal the winner in the final episode…

You’ve heard the legendary tale of the landfill that Atari dumped all the unsold cartridges of E.T. into. Supposedly 3.5 million copies of the game were tossed. And when people started trekking to the dump for free games no matter how terrible it was, it was covered over in concrete. For some reason, people started to think that maybe this was just a legend even though a report of this happening was in the New York Times. Well, just last month they started excavating the site and finding all the old games.

And with that, there’s been talk of how bad E.T. really was. Polygon made a small list with games they thought might be worse so I took the Atari 2600 games on that list for a spin to see which one is the most sucky.

The Contenders:

Tron Screen

Can you beat my score?

Adventures of Tron - It’s similar to a Donkey Kong game where you have to climb ladders to get to where you need to go. What you need to do is collect all the weird flying objects while avoiding other objects. How do you tell the good from the bad? Trial and error. The crap part of this game is that it’s a single screen that only changes color when you switch levels… Or at least as far as I got because the hit box on the collectables is garbage but it’s gigantic on the enemies — A perfect recipe for frustration. But the game made sense, and there was a score that could be used to compare to friends. Definitely not the worse of the bunch.

 

Star Wars Screen

The walkers would change colors as they were hit

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - Fly and shoot a never-ending raid of AT-AT walkers. It’s ice planet boring and a pain in the ass to control, but it kind of makes sense in a fucked up George Lucas kind of way.

 

 

King Kong Screen

That is supposed to be King Kong!?

King Kong - Take Donkey Kong and have it drawn by a 4-year-old using their off-hand. Then have that monstrosity throw what can only be described as cupcakes (with a candle) at you. When you reach the distressed maiden at the top of the building, repeat the horror again. I opted to run directly into the cupcakes when I realized that my life was Groundhog Daying… Because who wouldn’t want to run directly into a giant cupcake?

 

 

Fantastic Voyage Screen

Just flying up this narrow rainbow path, don’t mind me.

Fantastic Voyage - Fly your spaceship up some kind of rainbow road avoiding/shooting things in the way. I guess this is the titular voyage? I would never take this trip… it’s a tiny road filled with crap that is too small to shoot and to fast to avoid. The good part about this game is that the goal is pretty straight forward: fly up and shoot things. The most awful thing about this game is the noise that came out of my headphones. As you took damage/continued down the road it was like a heart monitor getting faster, and death was a loud and long flat-line tone. My ears tell me that this should be a contender for the worst of the bunch.

 

 

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Look at the snake, if it comes in the middle of the screen it is invisible because it’s the same color as the background.

Raiders of the Lost Ark - I don’t think I had the right controller for this game, but I was able to play a bit. You pick up your gear (like a gun and a whip) while avoiding a snake that blended into the background. Then I would fall down a pit and lose a life. Once there, bird enemies and some evil dude that would try to kill me. Sometimes I could shoot him, other times he took my stuff. It was possible to climb out of the pit, but you’d have to lose a life falling in again if you left.

 

 

 

Alien Screen

Baddies could also be Mousers from Ninja Turtles.

Alien - Take PacMan and make it not possible to kill the ghosts, and then take Frogger and make it impossible to move left and right. When you put that together, you get Alien. All the enemies were different colored T-Rex looking things. The whole time I was wishing the Predator would show up and end everything — the aliens, the game, me, this game journey I put myself in. Ugh.

 

 

 

E.T. Title Screen

My high (and only) score because I wasn’t willing to play again.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial - The reigning champion of bad. You, as E.T., can run around avoiding the government officials that moved much faster. You could make E.T.’s head lift up that would teleport him somewhere random. There were little dots around that it seemed like I was collecting and the government officials were taking away from me. Oh, and there were pits of doom all over the place that once you fell in, you’d have to extend E.T.’s head and float out of the pit. And to top all that off, there was a death timer that ticked down as you moved. Did I mention all the pits? More pits than a cherry tree. This game is still the worst of the bunch. Because Pits.

I tried to put the games in order from bad to worst, let me know if you think that there’s something worse than E.T. on the 2600, because I am willing to put myself through that pain.

The Fluxx card game has existed for a while, and for what it is, I’m a fan. What the card game is, is a light, very random game that you can play almost anywhere in a shortish amount of time (10-30 minutes). The game has a bunch of different themed versions (Pirate, Zombie, Monty Python) that add a small amount of dressing to what the original is.

I can neither confirm nor deny that a picture of college-aged me was used as inspiration for a certain spot on this board.

I can neither confirm nor deny that a picture of college-aged me was used as inspiration for a certain spot on this board.

At their core, the Fluxx games are about having the “rules” change as the game is played. For example: the number of cards drawn at the start of the turn or the number of cards you can keep in your hand at the end of a turn. The difference between the board game and card game, is that in the card game, part of the randomness is your card draws of “Keepers” or the cards to be combined for a win, but in board game you move your pieces on to symbols that represent these keepers. This, of course makes it much easier to accomplish the goal. To make up for this, in the board game you have to do this 3 different times. But in the end, it’s still doing something pretty simple 3 times with the slight inconvenience of trying to do it before the other players or with them futilely trying to get in the way.

To win, just be the first player, and with your pre-game rule adjustment increase the movement by 1. Then just waltz through a few turns collecting the wins and game over. This removes all fun from the game. There seems to be no strategy that can be attempted to combat this tactic more than a slight delay. And the random cards and rule changes don’t affect the outcome so are therefore adding nothing to the game.

Final Rating:  1 “You Sunk My Battleship” out of a broken pop-o-matic Trouble bubble.

I know with a title like this post’s, the choices are nearly limitless, but last week the world was treated to one of the worst pitches ever on a major league field:

That’s Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson with that horrible show of athleticism. Now let’s see how bad it really was with this chart put together by The Washington Post:

pitches2

So let’s just be glad he sticks to his day job of selling me energy drinks.

Here's my buddy Grimrapper chilling with some Street King. (I couldn't find my note from 50 with this delivery)

Here’s my buddy Grimrapper chilling with some Street King. (I couldn’t find my note from 50 with this delivery)

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