Miscellany Feed

Win a Book in the Spring Review Drive!

Help me gather reviews and you could win a book… If you have read any of the five books pictured below, you could win one of three signed copies of Dungeons and Dragons and Philosophy I’m offering as prizes in a special Spring review drive!

Bateman Books A friend recently pointed out to me that I don’t have a great deal of reviews on the Amazon sites, and that it would be good to get the numbers up. To this end, I’m offering books as prizes for three lucky contributors to a review drive running throughout Spring. To take part, you have to have read at least one of the five books pictured above, and contribute a review to either Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk (or both – for double the chance of winning!). At the start of the competition, there are 10 reviews for these books on Amazon.com and just one on Amazon.co.uk – surely we can do better than that!

Here’s what you have to do:

  1. Write a short review (a couple of sentences will do) for one or more of the books above and post them on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, or both.
  2. Send an email to comp [at] ihobo.com giving your name and address, the review text,  and the website posted to. If you have any special request about how you’d like the book signed, you can mention this too.
  3. If you post the review on both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, you can send one competition email for each site, for twice the chances to win!

That’s all there is to it! Each book review on each site is worth one more chance to win, so if you’ve read more than one of my books you can rack up multiple chances to win. (If you’ve already written a review of one of these books for one of these sites, you can still submit that review to the competition).

There will be three random draws for prizes, one at the end of February, another at the end of March, and a final one at the end of April. If you enter before the first draw, you will get three chances to win for each review you submit.

Good luck!

Closing date for entries is 30th April 2013. Prize draws will be held on or shortly after 1st March, 1st April and 1st May. Competition is open to individuals with a postal address anywhere in the world. Multiple entries are permitted provided each corresponds to a review posted to either Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk, the text of which must be included with the entry. Reviews posted to the relevant sites prior to the competition commencing are still eligible for entry into the competition provided the relevant email is submitted to the competition address. The same review text may be posted to Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, and this will qualify as two entries provided each is submitted in a separate email. Participants may only win one prize no matter how many times they enter. Winners will be determined at random using polyhedral dice rolled by an appointed judge. The judge's decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. The prize may not be transferred to any other person. No cash alternative or alternative prize is available. Spambots will be shot. All irregularities will be handled by the forces controlling each dimension. Entry in the competition implies acceptance of these rules.

Competition cross-posted from Only a Game.

This competition is currently open.

Edinburgh Interactive 2012

I’m proud to report I have a gig at Edinburgh Interactive this year with Ren Reynolds, at 2:30 pm on Thursday 9th August. Here’s the blurb:

Are computer games art?

This seemingly obscure academic question can quickly get film critics spluttering, lawyers scribbling, and bloggers, erm... blogging. Why all this passion? Because if computer games really are art then they matter. Not in the sense of computer games being the UK's most successful creative industry where we export products and talent around the world, or games being a massive boost to the British economy. No. Really matter. As a culture that people have to take seriously.

To answer the question once and for all, philosopher and policy wonk Ren Reynolds talks to Chris Bateman about games, art and their intimate relationship. As author of the book Imaginary Games, founder of International Hobo and lecturer, Chris brings the twin perspectives of game maker and academic to this vexed question.

Modern Board Games and Why Game Studios Should Care (DiGRA Panel)

Think Design PlayI’m honoured to announce that I’m on a panel with Reiner Knizia and many other wonderful people at the Think Design Play DiGRA conference in Utrecht on Thursday 15th September 2011. There’s a little more information over at the website for the conference. Many thanks to Ben Kirman and Jose Zagal for inviting me onto this panel!

Earlier in the day, at either 2 pm or 3:20 pm, I’ll also be in a Match session with someone else (I don’t know who!) where I’m supposed to be presenting some of the old DGD2 research, but will in fact be explaining why that research isn’t very clever, and neither is much of what is published as game studies.

Anyone at Think Design Play, I’m only there for the one day so catch me while you can!

International Hobo on Tour – July 2011

I am off “on tour” this July, with stops in three British cities and one in the States. Here’s my itinerary:

  • 4 July: Immersion 11 Forum, London
    On the Game Changers panel
  • 7 July: Film Philosophy Conference, Liverpool
    Presenting “Fictional Worlds in Films and Games”
  • 8-10 July: Videogame Cultures III, Oxford
    Presenting “Prop Theory for Game Aesthetics”, 2 pm Friday
  • 12-14 July: Visions of Humanity in Cyberculture, Cyberspace and Science Fiction VI, Oxford
    Presenting “Orthodox Science Fiction and Fictional Worlds, 4 pm Wednesday.
  • 18-22 July: IGDA Summit/Casual Connect, Seattle
    “Imagination and Game Design: A Philosophical Approach”, 10 am Tuesday

Happy trails!

Seeking New Mail Client

Can anyone recommend a mail client for use under Windows XP?

I still use the aging Outlook Express as my mail client, largely because I’ve been unable to find anything better. I did try Thunderbird the other year, but found it had no significant advantages over OE, and a lot of clunky new problems.

The main factor pushing for change is that when I’m travelling, transferring mail from my desktop to my laptop is very difficult – even with a tool expressly designed for the job. In particular, mail rules (which OE stores in the registry) do not transfer well. Webmail is impractical for the volume and diversity of email I handle (e.g. sometimes I get 5,000+ survey data emails in a week), so it will need to be a POP3 client.

Here’s my “wish list” for a new mail client:

  • Lightweight code – quick to start, little to go wrong.
  • Easy filtering – ideally, I’d like to drag an email into a folder and have the client learn that I want emails from that contact to go into that folder. Failing that, to be able to easily compile lists of contacts that filter into a particular folder. But most importantly, all this information has to export easily for when I transfer to my laptop.
  • Effortless export – as I say, I need to switch from desktop to laptop without losing any data.
  • Secure – I have to protect non-disclosure agreements with commercial clients, so I need software I can trust.
  • No fluff – I want a mail client to sort and read mail; I’m not looking for software that tries to take over my desk diary’s job.

Any suggestions?

Update: following a demonstration of Gmail by Peter, I'm now much more confident that this is a sensible step for me to take. I'm going to experiment with Gmail while I'm on the road in July and if it works out I'll ditch Outlook Express when I return. Thanks to everyone for their assistance!


Deck: Standard 52 card deck, jokers not included
Players: 2 or more players (more than 4 players will probably require an additional deck of cards)
Difficulty: Average
Time: One hand takes approximately 5-15 minutes; one game takes approximately 30 minutes
Created: 1997
Overview: Players attempt to be the first player to go out, thus scoring points for all the cards they have obtained on the table and also points for each card remaining in the other players' hands.

Getting its name from a mistake in translating the games original name from Japanese, Underwear is a deceptively simple game; quick to learn but difficult to master. Underwear suits a wide variety of different play styles, and can be played to some extent with or without strategy. The game play revolves around playing cards of the same suit but a lower value on the main pile - known as the downpile. They can also steal the downpile with a card of the same value, making an up-pile that they can play cards onto with a higher value but the same suit.

Although the object of the game is to go out (thus scoring points, as only the player who gets out of cards scores in each hand), it is often strategic to delay going out in order to score more points - especially if the other players are stuck picking up cards, as every card in their hands at the end of the game scores for the player going out. Sometimes a player will delay the game in the hope of going out, only to discover they are trapped, ending up giving the game to another player.

Up-piles are the road to high points, and low value cards are vitally important to stealing the downpile to make up-piles, with Aces the lowest possible card. Because the common pile of cards can only go down in value, the downpile tends to get blocked around A-4 of the suit it is on. Low cards give you the best chance of stealing, but once the downpile gets low, some players may prefer to play a royalty and clear the downpile, rather than risk a big downpile being stolen by another player.

One of the most rewarding aspects of Underwear is that every player develops a completely different strategy. Some play conservatively, preferring to pick up cards rather than unblock the downpile for their opponents. Others play a fast-paced liberal game, keeping the momentum going and trying to go out quickly. All strategies can work - if they are played well. It's possible to plan ahead and develop tricks for stealing a downpile, or for blocking the game for other players (especially if you have a good memory for what has already been played), but don't be surprised if your master plan blows up in your face when one of the other players has just the card to spoil your schemes.

Rules of Underwear

1. Deal seven cards to each player
The first dealer is the player who suggested playing Underwear; the deal passes to the left after each hand.
2. Turn over the top card
This card forms the downpile. (If it is a royalty, discard it and the first player can play any card.)
3. Turns
Each turn, a player can do one of the following:

• Play a card (or a run of consecutive cards) onto the downpile.
These cards must be of the same suit, but a lower value (e.g. 4 hearts onto 7 hearts, or 3 and 4 hearts onto 9 hearts).
Royalties are special - they cannot be not played on the downpile.

• Play a card (or a run of consecutive cards) onto any of their own up-piles.
These cards must be of the same suit, but a higher value (e.g. 6, 7 and 8 diamonds onto A diamonds).
Royalties are special - they cannot be not played onto an up-pile.

• Play one or more royalties (not including aces) to remove the current downpile from play.

• Steal the current downpile using a card of the same value (the card in question becomes a new downpile).
The stolen downpile becomes a new up-pile in front of the player.

• Draw a card.

4. The Downpile
The downpile is the one place that all players can play onto.

Cards played onto the downpile must be of the same suit, but a lower value.

A single lower value card can be played, or a run of consecutive cards of the same suit, all lower than the card showing on the downpile.

Players may also steal the downpile to make an up-pile by replacing the downpile with a card with the same value as the card showing on top of the downpile (e.g. if the top card on the downpile is 2 clubs, a player could play a 2 hearts as a new downpile, and take the old downpile as an up-pile in front of them).

5. Up-piles
Any cards face up in front of a player are considered up-piles.

Cards played onto an up-pile must be of the same suit, but a higher value.

A single higher value card can be played, or a run of consecutive cards of the same suit, all higher than the card showing on the up-pile in question.

When a 10 is played on an up-pile, turn the up-pile face down.

Face-down up-piles score double if the player manages to go out.

6. Ending a hand
Each hand ends when a player plays their last card, either onto the downpile, or onto an up-pile.

The only player who scores it the player who goes out.

This player scores:

• 1 point for each card in a face-up up-pile.
• 2 points for each card in a face-down up-pile (one upon which a 10 has been played).
• 1 point for each card left in the hand of each of their opponents.

The player to the left of the last dealer deals the next hand.

First player to 49 points wins (or to another target, agreed before the game begins).

7. Royalties
When you play royalties, you can play as many or as few as you wish; the effect is the same.

You can always play royalties, regardless of their suit, or the suit of the downpile.

Whenever one or more royalties are played, the current downpile is discarded, including any royalties that have just been played.

The next player at the table can play any card they want to start a new downpile. (If they play a royalty, the player after them is faced with the same situation).

Optional Rules

1. Doubling
Any player with more cards in their hand than any other player may declare 'double' at any time.

Each player can only double once in the game, but each player may double (provided they had more cards in their hand than any other player at the time when they doubled).

For each double declared by players, the score of the player who goes out is doubled (e.g. if in a game with four players, two of them doubled at some point, whomever went out first would score four times the basic score).

2. Royalties on Up-piles
A variation of the game allows the player to play royalties onto up-piles of the same suit, with the same effect as playing a 10.
3. Seat Changes
Some players complain that they lose simply because of where they are in the turn sequence (especially if they get stuck next to a player who never players a royalty). If this happens, you may like to try this variant. After each hand, the player who went out exchanges seat with the player with the most cards left in their hand. This rule help avoids any suspicion that there is a 'losing seat'.

Underwear created by Chris Bateman (original name: Shitagi, pronounced 'shi-tang-i', which is Japanese for 'Underwear'; the word was constructed from Kanji with the intent to spell 'downpile', but only later was the error realised and the name of the game 'discovered'); this document is copyright 2000 International Hobo Ltd.