Maya's Birthday

Our beautiful daughter Maya turned 4 the other day. She'd been looking forward to her birthday for at least 8 months; she'd decided long ago what sort of birthday cake she was going to have and where she was going to go, and she doggedly stuck to her guns.

Well, we went to the Melbourne Aquarium as she requested, and she got her elephant cake. On top of all this, she starts kindergarten this year. Phew!

Maya is already planning out her 5th birthday (seriously) and talks about her 16th birthday too. It must be a girl thing. I'm content to deal with 1 day, maybe 1 week, and at most 1 weekend at a time.

Happy Birthday Maya!

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Settlers of Catan 2 Player Rule Variations

Olivia and I have played a lot of the Settlers of Catan board game recently...a lot. We've played with a few friends and got them hooked too. And our playingness increased (if that's possible) after getting the Cities and Knights expansion for Christmas.

If you've never played Settlers, the rest of this post will make no sense at all. Please feel free to go out and buy the game, and come back!

The basic Settlers game, with no alterations to the rules, can technically be played by only two people; however, often one person gets ahead and stays ahead. Some simple tweaks can make 2-person Settlers a little more balanced while still keeping it enjoyable.

While I didn't invent any of these changes, I thought it would be worthwhile listing them all in the one place:

  • The player with the least points controls the robber when a 7 is rolled (by either player). Difference: the trailing player doesn't get too far behind.

  • The robber is placed using a dice roll instead of the player who rolled the 7 choosing. Difference: the placing of the robber is random - we find a 12-sided dice works best for placing the robber.

  • The robber can go back to the desert when a 7 is rolled. Difference: the 7 can be a neutral number.

  • Instead of 2 dice, roll a 12-sided dice for normal turns. Difference: This means that any number is just as likely to be rolled. We don't use this a lot.

  • No player trading, only trading with the bank allowed. Difference: stops arguments!

  • When the game starts, you get resources for both of your starting settlements. Difference: you start with more cards and are able to start doing things quicker.

  • Each player gets two rolls of the dice on their turn. Difference: you collect resources quicker, which counters one of the main problems with only two players that the game is slower to get anywhere.

  • The limit of cards you can have in your hand before you have to return them to the bank when a 7 is rolled goes from 7 to 9. Difference: you can stockpile a couple of extra cards without having to spend them. Works particularly well with the "two dice rolls" variation.

  • A dummy third player or "neutral player" is added. This player only builds roads and control of where he'll place the roads alternates between both players. Difference: Having a third player means more dice rolls (more resources) and placing the settlements at the start of the game for the third player can be used to hinder your opponent. See this explanation for the full run-down on using a third player.

  • Each player plays two colors. Difference: I haven't used this variation, but I can imagine it would increase the competitiveness for real estate.

  • Play to 12 (or more) victory points (instead of 10). Difference: Longer game, and the potential for the trailing player to catch up.

  • One of Olivia's favorites is called "Intimate Settlers" where each player has an island and you build towards each other, uncovering hexes as you go. Difference: you need to explore to find the good resources, rather than just sitting on the starting couple you get.

Here's some of the links I've used in putting together this list:

Happy playing!

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How To Prioritize Your Friends

Today's Basic Instructions was both insightful and laugh-out-loud funny. Scott gets offered free tickets to the baseball and works through deciding who to take with him. Here's a teasing taste:

Check out the Basic Instructions web site for the helpful continuation of "How To Prioritize Your Friends".

He he.

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The Pulled Elbow of 2008

I have an interesting New Year's Eve story to tell.

Olivia, the kids and I were invited to a party at a friend's house and while I was playing with Heath, pulling him upright by his arms, he started crying. Olivia rushed over to help and immediately suspected Heath had an injury that had happened to Maya three times before (and apparently small children are susceptible to) where a muscle or ligament near the elbow is moved out of place.

The standard treatment is massage to move the muscle back, although 2 out of 3 previous times neither our family doctor or the Emergency department could help Maya and eventually (e.g. a couple of hours later) the arm returned to normal in Maya's case.

Given that we had some experience with this type of injury, we decided to take Heath home via the chemist, put him to bed and then see how his arm was in the morning. Here's me and Heath and his makeshift sling - he was quite happy at this point, and in a spirit of forgiveness even offered me biscuits!

To our dismay, the drama continued the next morning as Heath was still not able to move his arm.

Olivia quickly prepared for a trip to the local hospital and was about to leave when all of a sudden Heath started moving his arm around as if nothing had happened and he was all smiles. It was quite bizarre to see Heath one minute with no movement in his arm and then suddenly have things return to normal.

Heath handled the whole thing really well. Given this, it was even more painful for me when after we'd been playing and he'd hurt his arm, for him to look over at me with a "why does this hurt Dad?" kind of look which broke my heart. Heath was in pain which was my fault, and I have to admit at that point I honestly felt like a bad father.

In the whole episode, I valued Olivia's level head and decision-making ability when one of her precious children was obviously suffering. I'm no doctor and can't make any recommendations on what to do if you are faced with a similar situation (in fact I would recomend going straight to see a doctor); however Olivia had previous experience with pulled elbow muscles and was able to take effective and compassionate action.

And it certainly made for an interesting New Year's Eve.

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Back to Work

Aaah, holidays. I enjoyed a great week and a half off, to go back to work today.

Christmas, New Year, Maya's birthday: everything happening at once! We went to the beach, the Melbourne Aquarium, the shops (of course), played X-Box, played Settlers, watched movies, went out for dinner and plenty more.

I do have more holidays coming up, so I guess I just need to tough it out until then (January 14th) :-)

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