Kelv's Random Collection

A random collection of my contributions to the world.

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Synalyze It! Grammar for Capitalism .SET files

Posted by kelvSYC on 12-2-2020

It’s been a long time since I have worked with Synalyze It! (and its non-macOS counterpart, Hexinator). In fact, it’s been six years since I last posted on this matter, and back then, the app tended to crash a lot, and my scripting skills were not up to snuff as it relates to some of the more complicated structures that I have been finding, and the feature set for the app was a bit lacking. Six years later, a lot of it has changed, but my scripting skills and the scripting API is still hit-or-miss.

That said, let’s talk about the business simulation game, Capitalism. (Steam, GOG), and its sequels, Capitalism II (Steam, GOG) and Capitalism Lab. It’s addictive, but difficult to play with the full set of rules. These rules are largely put into .SET files that are moddable to a very limited extent.

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Kelvin’s Monopoly Adventure

Posted by kelvSYC on 5-8-2020

It’s tough times we are living in, and despite all that, I actually don’t have much free time in indulging my hobbies. This is reflected in the fact that much of what I have output so far is kind of stillborn. And today is no real exception.

You may have heard of the project that is known as Ultimate Monopoly. If you haven’t, it’s a fairly old project that serves to combine the standard (pre-2008 rebalance) Monopoly board, but add the board of Monopoly Mega Edition around it, and then add on its interior, the unlicensed Super Add-Ons, and throw in the semi-licensed Stock Exchange add-on. This results in a monstrous board of 80 properties over 20 color groups, with 8 utilities, 4 railroads, and 4 cab companies (a new concept of this game), with four massive decks of action cards (Chance, Community Chest, and the two decks native to Super Add-Ons: Roll 3 and Travel Vouchers, the latter of which being merged with the concept of Bus Tickets).

Of course, all of this by itself does not make for a good game (since the outer Mega Edition board requires significant modification to make it even playable in the first place), and simply combining the parts from all of the games make for a messy experience. Fortunately, that project has made available a custom board and almost all of its assets under a free license, so people can try to print and play by only requiring minimal borrowing of equipment from other games.

Now, if you want to professionally print the title deeds and action cards, or the board for that matter, you are going to need to find someone who can do custom sizing. Monopoly cards have, for the most part, never been of any size resembling standard cards, while the board is understandably huge (at roughly 27.5 inches square; by comparison a Mega Edition board is 25 inches square; even taking into consideration that the outer board in Ultimate is one space longer on each side, board spaces are bigger to accommodate the inner boards).

To that end, I’ve been trying to work on creating my own set of cards so that they fit on standard-sized cards but have similar aesthetics to pre-2008 Monopoly cards, but using freely available lookalike fonts. Not much luck with the board, since while the board design is available freely, it contains design elements from Monopoly or Super Add-Ons that are still copyrighted by their copyright holders. Moreover, I haven’t been able to find a place that can print boards that big without dividing them into multiple pieces, and even then, the board has a few lingering design issues (no spaces to place train depots from Mega Edition and cab stands, the original counterparts to train depots, unlike the dedicated spaces for them in Mega Edition) that should probably be addressed.

To be honest, I’m not totally confident that I would print this at this point, given the state of the world we live in. But it’s definitely a print and play project that is worth some of my time investment. Perhaps I’ll post what I have for free someday.

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Guide Update – March 2020

Posted by kelvSYC on 3-2-2020

It’s been a while since I have uploaded something to my collection, and with the recent things making the news that has caused me to work from home in my day job (which I still love very much) instead of the office, it has given me a bit more time to work on my side projects, like updating the Guide for a new year.

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Kelvin’s New Adventure

Posted by kelvSYC on 9-4-2019

I’ve been on a tear writing on my “glossary”, now with a decent level of content for Struggle for Catan and Catan: Milk Chocolate Edition, though there is still a decent backlog of Catan Card Game content to deal with. I’ve also obtained the (international version, as the English version is still not announced) Cities & Knights 20th anniversary edition (working title: Legend of the Conquerors) and the promotional scenario The Cologne Cathedral (it’s a World Championship scenario – German on one side and English on the other). So I’d like to take the opportunity to remind people that I probably won’t have the Guide up to date for a while longer.

It reminds me – I still need to find a way to reuse my chocolate pieces after I’ve eaten the chocolates in a game of Catan: Milk Chocolate Edition. Not sure how to do that right now, though I need to think of something before the chocolate goes bad.

This and other things related to computing, board games, and life’s necessities have really stretched my budget of late. Plus, I have a giant backlog of stuff that I have yet to break open. Working on this project is actually helping in uncovering the hidden treasure from my collection, but it’s also taking time away from properly organizing it and cleaning up my place. But enough excuse-mongering: let’s see what time I can spare to post updates as I dig through the depths of my game collection.

Also, I do have certain items in my collection for sale – harder to find promos and the like. I’ve yet to find a taker for a first edition Kingdom Builder with three of the four expansions and a select number of Queenies (I also own a second edition copy with all four expansions and all the Queenies). Sometimes I think I need to hook myself up with some resource to help me sell some of my possessions, but I’m not really sure who to turn to at this point.

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Cards Galore

Posted by kelvSYC on 7-28-2019

If you are a playing card aficionado, then you are probably aware of the United States Playing Card Company, and if you aren’t, chances are, you already own a deck made by them; many of the most recognizable brand names in playing cards, whether it be for playing games, cardistry, magic tricks, or cartomancy (that’s the fancy term for fortune telling using cards) are owned by them, and the company also does custom decks for many large clients. Their flagship brand is Bicycle, and their Rider backs in red and blue are considered to be the standard in which all other playing cards are considered against.

Of course, standard Bicycle playing cards are the standard variety: 52 cards in French suits (10 numbered cards and 3 face cards), 2 jokers (differentiated from each other), and 2 advertisement cards round out a pack. (Of course, there are many specialty playing cards that bear the Bicycle name, and the Bicycle name extends well beyond the standard Rider back.) And they are cheap and plentiful in that, if you need a game that requires multiple decks and/or stripped decks (games that use only a portion of the deck, not to be confused with stripper decks, which are a type of cards used in magic tricks), assembling a deck that is ready to go (as opposed to preparing a deck before every game) isn’t too expensive, and many companies sell pre-stripped decks so you won’t have to leave cards unused. The USPCC even mass-produces Pinochle decks (48 cards in French suits, 9 through A in each suit twice over, plus two advertisement cards, four Pinochle instruction cards, and two blank cards) so that people don’t have to take apart two decks of cards for the occasion. (The USPCC also publishes specialty Canasta and Euchre decks under the Bicycle brand, but with different backs.)

Of course, in the world of traditional card games, that still leaves out a good selection of games. Most games today use French suits, but there are also Latin suits (Spanish suits and Italian suits) and Germanic suits (German suits and Swiss suits), as well as (to a lesser extent) Chinese money suits that fit the traditional “rank and suit” formula (although possibly with varying numbers of ranks and face cards), as well as various tarot and tarock decks (“ranks and suits”, along with a separate “trump suit” that may or may not have the same set of ranks).

For Spanish suits, the reputable makers of those cards is arguably Fournier, a Spanish “sibling” of USPCC. They produce traditional 40-card (10 ranks) and 50-card (12 ranks and 2 jokers) decks in the Spanish suits. I’ve also been able to procure a 78-card French tarot deck (10 numbered ranks and 4 face cards in each suit, plus 21 trump cards, one “excuse”, and two advertisement cards) under that brand name, but I don’t actually know if they make them anymore. (Most tarot decks manufactured today use Latin, and more specifically, Italian suits, for the purposes of cartomancy; tarot and tarock decks with a gameplay focus still exist, however.) I do know, however, that other brands do sell French tarot decks and are still reasonably affordable.

The leading German suited manufacturer appears to be ASS Alternburger, a part of Belgium-based Cartamundi Group, the parent company to both USPCC and Fournier. (The Cartamundi Group owns brands such as Copag, better known for their use in cardistry and magic than games; their card business also extends into printing cards for board games and collectible card games as well).

Given that games like Skat are played with both French suits and German suits, there is also a “tournament Skat” deck that is basically French suits but with two of the suits (spades and diamonds) recolored to more closely resemble German suits (leaves and bells); these are used in competitive Skat settings. A more informal hybrid deck using both French and German suits, where half the pips on each card are French and the other half German, are sold by a number of companies. Similar to this, Swiss card maker AGM AGMuller has a deck where each card has half its pips in French suits and the other half in Swiss suits.

The leading Italian suited manufacturer is Trieste-based Modiano. Most of their decks are 40 cards, but there are some 52-card packs available. They also offer Italian 54-card tarock decks (4 numbered cards and 4 face cards in 4 suits, plus one “excuse” and 21 trump cards; true to older card ordering, the red suits have only 1-4 and the black suits have 7-10) as well.

As for Chinese money suits, the most famous Chinese money suit game is Mahjong, and although for authenticity it should be played with tiles, Mahjong decks (including American Mahjong decks) are not that hard to come by, and available from a number of manufacturers. Problem is, actual money suited cards (for example, Dongguan Cards used in Quan Dui or Hakka Cards used in Luk Fu) are hard to come by in China, let alone the west, and it’s difficult to find a reputable manufacturer of traditional slim cards, let alone westernized variants, due to the fact that Chinese money suits were, as the name implied, somewhat associated with gambling and largely exist “underground”. Similarly, Chess suits (a different type of Chinese card deck, where the ranks are Xiangqi pieces and the suits are colors) have been hard to find. What isn’t hard to find are decks for the Filipino game Cuajo, which is a game inspired by Chess suits, but played with a specialized Spanish suited deck.

For completion, Japanese hanafuda and kabufuda cards are not that uncommon, given that the most well-known manufacturer is Nintendo, a brand well-known around the world for video games; it’s just that they don’t sell decks internationally and generally have to be imported. I have little insight on Indian Ganjifa decks, but I did hear that they exist as more art pieces than anything useful for gameplay today.

Anyways, I’ve been trying to compile a number of different ready-to-use card decks, mostly with Bicycle Rider back cards of different colors, but using other cards where appropriate. It’s not exactly a revival of GUCD (who remembers that on the blog?), but it should allow me to enjoy a greater variety of games. Maybe at a later point, I will tell you all about my efforts.

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Kelvin’s Comings and Goings

Posted by kelvSYC on 7-9-2019

Lately I haven’t been working on the Guide for a good reason; it’s one of those times where real life gets in the way. That and the fact that my spare time where I can work on projects is dedicated to two things: playing video games and working on building notes for the next big Catan-related project. It’s been six months since I started on my “glossary”, and to be honest, not a lot has been done.  Most of the work is not really on Catan itself (although I have some of the basics), though I have done quite a bit of work on entries related to the Catan Card Game and A Game of Thrones Catan: Brotherhood of the Watch.

But this post is not about any of that.  In today’s age of 4K, the sad truth is that as I upgrade my hardware, older things are going to be harder to hook up and require a bit of investment to keep in working condition. This is definitely true for my older systems that use analog output.  (Granted, that’s just my GameCube and Wii, but I grew up with a LaserDisc player and a DVD recorder, so…) As such, I’ve been spending a bit on equipment that can help me hook these two systems up.

For those of you who are out of the loop, yes, while there exists analog-to-HDMI converters out there, the main issue is that gaming systems often require precise button input, and most converters are optimized towards movies and other applications where the delay between pressing a button and seeing its result is not as important. For that reason, most of my gaming on the GameCube or Wii were games where input lag was not really that important.  (For the record, I also have a Wii U, though I’ve been told that the software scaler on the Wii U to scale up Wii games and output them over HDMI is kind of bad.)

So to have a good gaming experience, you need specialized ADC equipment. If you were lucky enough to have an early model GameCube with a digital AV port, then there exists an HDMI dongle that you can purchase that will get the GameCube to output 480p, so that’s not an issue there – but my GameCube isn’t one of those, so I have to invest in a RetroTINK 2x and a GameCube S-Video cable to get a worse-quality 480p. (I’m aware that it is possible to mod any model of GameCube to output video over HDMI, but I do not have the means or expertise to mod my system, and I honestly prefer unmodified systems.). My Wii (the early model one with full GameCube compatibility) outputs 480p over component video, so I merely need a simple ADC to get HDMI output, but I also decided to invest in an OSSC for more scaling options (after all, your TV may introduce some lag trying to scale digital signals too).  Fortunately, it is well documented that the RetroTINK 2x and an OSSC work very nicely together (though no 9x scaling to enjoy old-school 240p gaming in 4K), though doing so requires a crazy amount of analog-to-digital-to-analog-to-digital back-and-forth conversion (this being that both devices take analogue input and output HDMI).  Plus, I lack a component video switch so I would not be able to set up both consoles together, even if the intent is to have only one console on at a time. So, that journey is not over yet. (I can only pray that I don’t acquire additional analog equipment that requires me to get an analog switch of some kind.)

Whether I intend to invest further in it… well, let’s see how much time I have after continuing work on these other projects. After all, August is the German release of the C&K 20th anniversary expansion, and October is slated to be the release of the Starfarers remake. There’s a lot of work to do so that I can have the fun that I want…

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Kelvin’s Review of the Chestego Game System

Posted by kelvSYC on 5-3-2019

Lately I haven’t been in the mood for writing – partly because my full-time job makes me write a whole lot, and partly because I have other games I’m spending my time on. Recently I obtained my copy of the Chestego Game System from Icefired Games. I had obtained it from a recent Kickstarter campaign, but the game system is available from their website.

So, what is a “game system”? It’s basically a set of components without well-defined rules that you can use to play any number of games – for example, there are many games that you can play with an ordinary deck of cards, some that you play with a small number of six-sided dice, and so on.  Amongst the most famous “open source” game systems is the piecepack, which I have a homemade set made from various acrylic pieces, and amongst one of the most famous commercial systems (in that the IP and reference implementation of the components is a commercial product, but the games themselves may be distributed under a separate license) is the Looney Pyramids. Chestego, like the Looney Pyramids, is a commercial system, whose games largely lend themselves towards strategy games.

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An update from Kelvin

Posted by kelvSYC on 2-23-2019

It’s been a while since my last update, and I can announce that I’m starting the next iteration of the Guide in earnest. Well, not really. This new iteration of the Guide is more of a complement to the Guide than anything having to do with the Guide itself. As I have hinted at throughout the last iteration of the Guide, there are some things that the Guide is ill-suited for that are worth presenting, and I’m hoping that this new project will help with that. Unfortunately, this new project is having me to rewrite stuff that’s already in the Guide from the beginning for the umpteenth time. Some of it is fine, but sometimes it’s difficult writing the very basic things over and over again so that you can have fun writing the more unique and different things.

Right now, a lot of this new thing are stub documents, and I’m honestly fearing the times I’m going to use my note-taking program’s search functionality to link all these things together. As you can imagine, writing this new thing is kind of like writing a wiki: you have to write lots and lots of outlines, and then you have to remember to fill them in. It’s going to take a lot of work (and I have to update the Guide at the same time), and it’s going to compete with my spare time for my attention. I am hoping that by the end of this year, I will have one release each of both this and the Guide.

One of the things that I can announce for this project is more and more photos; mostly original, and some that (to the best of my knowledge) are governed by permissive licenses. There will continue to be the line art, since I can usually get those out faster than taking photos and editing them, but at least there will be some nice variety.

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Happy 2019 from Kelvin!

Posted by kelvSYC on 1-2-2019

2019 is now here, and this year is promising for Catan.  I haven’t been blogging much, which kind of underscores how interested I am in my day job and how little I generally game nowadays (which meant that I was generally not incentivized to make a 2018 revision to the Guides).  Given the amount of new content for Catan is going to be out, a 2019 revision consisting of the newest things will probably be out within the year, again, most likely after most of the content for the year is published.

There is absolutely no shortage of new content planned for the Guide whenever I get around to it.  I did get myself new additions in 2017 (Hawaii – both the English and international versions) and 2018 (Crop Trust), and 2019 has the C&K 20th anniversary expansion (tentatively titled “Legend of the Conquerors”) set to release mid-year at least internationally (it’s likely Catan Studios will release it in English, possibly in 2019, but there is no English announcement as of yet.).  Additionally, there are a bunch of errata, and I still owe you, our audience, that Bonus Volume.  (No, Legend of the Sea Robbers was not my motivation for releasing the 2017 version at all, but if there is anything that will motivate me to release a 2019 Guide, the C&K 20th anniversary expansion might.)

These changes by themselves won’t cause the Guide to balloon to over 500 pages in length, but then again, there are some additions to the Guide that could possibly push the issue.  Want to know more?  Find out after the break.

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Catan Scenario and Variant Guide – Bonus Guide Incoming

Posted by kelvSYC on 7-28-2018

It’s about time that I made an update on my random collection.  Work has been making me a bit too busy to be part of the board game community, and to be honest, I haven’t played too many board games lately.  However, this is not to say that the Guide is a dead project; it will be around whenever the next big official release comes along. (I’m still waiting for a Hawaii English release, Catan Studios!)

In the meantime, I’d like to share with you a story about how 2017-1 came to be.  Or rather, the fact that I’m intending to make, for the first time, an entirely unofficial companion to the Guide. There is only one item of note in the Bonus Guide (it’s a very short one), but it contains the one thing that inspired me to take six months out of last year to rewrite the entire Guide from scratch.

Well, what could that one thing be? You’ll just have to wait until it’s released to find out.  Also, if you are the author of that one thing, I’ll be sending my pre-release copy directly to you if you can be contacted, for your enjoyment.

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