May 15

Dominion Card Picker v1.3.0a

I just updated the card picker program to v1.3.0a, to give it *extremely* preliminary support for the Adventures expansion. By preliminary, I mean that so far only the Kingdom cards are implemented in the card picker. Events are still a work in progress. I’m still trying to figure out how picking Event cards should interact with all of the other card picker options (e.g. vetoes, card cost restrictions, etc.).

As of now, the new Adventures Kingdom cards are only implemented in text (mouse over the title of the card for its text), but as soon as is updated with the new card images, the card picker program will start using them.

Feb 06

Dominion Card Picker v1.2.2

Well, thanks to some feedback (and help) on the card picker program, I made a few changes and additions. Here is the list of changes with v1.2.2:

  • Added the Prince promo card.
  • Added a ‘defaults’ button to quickly set all fields to the recommended settings for producing games most-like those found in the ‘suggested sets’ sections of the various rulebooks.
  • Adjusted the organize by expansion feature to list expansions in chronological order, with promo cards at the end.
  • A few cosmetic and UI changes/tweaks.

I also want to thank Minusik (author of the Jack of All Dominion App) for many suggestions and programming help with the card picker program. He has actually coded a working Black Market deck picker addition to the program, that I will implement here soon.

Jul 07

Quarterstaff Walkthrough Level 3

Thanks to some feedback on the Quarterstaff: Tomb of Setmoth walkthrough, I went ahead and finished up the final section of the game walkthrough (level 3). It’s a little less complete than some of the earlier sections (fewer linked items and such), but details the steps to get to the final fight with Setmoth.

With level 3 completed, there are only two sections of the walkthrough still unfinished: a section detailing the effects of the various armour items in the game, and a section detailing some aspects of the game that I still haven’t been able to figure out.

Jan 05

Dominion Card Picker v1.1.9

This update is just a few small tweaks to the card picker restriction filters:

  • The scout restriction now includes Mystic.
  • I changed the logic on the ‘Require an action that provides at least +2 cards’ filter.. it now won’t include draw + discard actions (like Warehouse) in the filter. The option will force an action that actually increases hand size. I’m not 100% decided on this behavior, so if anyone uses this filter, and would like it to still select for draw + discard effects as well, please let me know.

Oct 20

Dominion Card Picker v1.1.8

A small update to the Dominion Card Picker program, mostly in the form of a few tweaks to the ‘redundancy/useless card’ filter. Thanks to several users for submitting suggested changes to these filters. By request, the “Don’t allow more than one cost-5 Treasure Card” option has been removed. I added a new filter specific to Contraband, but a few of the other cost-5 Treasure cards may need filters added too (e.g. Cache, Stash, and Horn of Plenty). The updated list of filters the option applies are as follows:

  • Only allow Quarry if there is at least one Festival, Market, or an Action card costing 6 or more.
  • Only allow Scout if there is at least one Baron, Crossroads, Explorer, Hunting Party, Farmland, Menagerie, Peddler, Tournament, Tunnel, Wishing Well, Action/Victory, or Treasure/Victory card.
  • Only allow Chancellor if there is at least one Baron, Counting House, Explorer, Hunting Party, Inn, Minion, Stash, Treasure Map, or Tournament card.
  • Only allow Counting House if there is at least one Ambassador, Beggar, Chancellor, Coppersmith, Ill-Gotten Gains, Moneylender, or Mountebank card.
  • Only allow Armory, Ironworks, Talisman, or Workshop if there is at least one Bishop, Bridge, Caravan, Conspirator, Crossroads, Envoy, Feodum, Fishing Village, Fool’s Gold, Gardens, Great Hall, Highway, Island, Menagerie, Procession, Scheme, Silk Road, Smithy, Throne Room, Tournament, or Warehouse card.
  • Only allow Tunnel if there is at least 1 card that allows you to discard or at least 1 hand-reducing Attack card.
  • Only allow Contraband if there are no other sources of +buy.
  • If there is a Chapel, don’t allow Loan, Moneylender, or Spice Merchant.
  • Only allow Reaction and Lighthouse cards (other than Fool’s Gold, Market Square, Trader, Tunnel, and Watchtower) if there is at least one relevant Attack card.
  • Don’t allow multiple cost 2 cards that provide +1 Card and +1 Action.
  • Don’t allow multiple same-cost cards that let you trash or return other cards.
  • Don’t allow more than 3 cards that let you trash or return other cards.
  • Don’t allow more than one cost 3-4 card that lets you trash or return other cards.
  • Don’t allow multiple same-cost cards that provide +2 or more actions.
  • Don’t allow more than one cost 3-5 card that provides +2 or more actions.
  • Don’t allow more than one cost 5-6 card that provides +2 or more actions.
  • Don’t allow more than one cost 2-3 card that provides +2 or more actions.
  • Don’t allow more than 1 Reaction or Lighthouse card (except Fool’s Gold, Market Square, Trader, Tunnel, and Watchtower).
  • Don’t allow more than 1 hand-reducing Attack card.
  • Don’t allow more than 2 curse-giving Attack cards.
  • Don’t allow more than 1 treasure-trashing Attack card.
  • Don’t allow both King’s Court and Throne Room.
  • Don’t allow more than one Armory, Ironworks, or Workshop card.
  • Don’t allow both Nomad Camp and Woodcutter.
  • Don’t allow both Envoy and Smithy.
  • Don’t allow more than 1 Hunting Party, Laboratory, or Stables card.
  • Don’t allow both Chancellor and Scavenger.
  • Don’t allow both Count and Mandarin.
  • Don’t allow more than 1 Catacombs, Embassy, or Journeyman card.
  • Only allow cards with on-trash abilities if there is at least 1 card that allows you trash them.
  • Only allow Squire if there is an Attack card.

I am still considering methods for adding the “Minimize the 5/2 vs. 4/3 split strength variation” restriction back in. It might be possible to replicate the ‘best and worst buys’ data using the Goko server, but at this point I’m thinking more about attempting to use my never-released Dominion Deck Calculator to evaluate the opening (buying) power of each Kingdom card pair. The calculator was unfortunately unable to handle the complex probabilities involved as numerous cards were added to the deck, but it was very adequate for the first few turns of the game, and so has some potential still. If anyone is interested in this project, I’d be happy to share more about how the Deck Calculator works.

Jun 16

Dominion Card Picker v1.1.7

The biggest new feature with v1.1.7 of the Dominion card picker is of course the final game expansion: Guilds. Although image hosting isn’t available yet (so the cards will only load as names), to make it a little easier I also added mouseover tooltips containing the card text for all Guilds cards (just mouseover the card title).

Other changes include:

  • By request, I added the option to pick more than 10 Kingdom cards, for those wanting to use non-blind veto methods. The blind veto buttons will of course still work too. Note: the various restriction options (e.g. cost restrictions) do not automatically scale up if you choose to deal out more than 10 Kingdom cards. You’ll need to adjust those settings yourself (if you use them). e.g. if you usually use a setting of at least 1 cost two card, but no more than 2 cost two cards when you pick 10 Kingdom cards, you may want to change those restrictions to slightly larger values if you use the program to pick 16 cards instead.
  • Removed the feature that attempted to minimize the 4/3 vs 5/2 split opening strength variation. I really liked the feature, but unfortunately due to the fact it relied on (now very outdated) best and worst buys data, which never included Dark Ages (or now Guilds), it was becoming less and less useful as a feature. I’d eventually love to come up with another way to reflect picking Kingdom sets specifically to address the strength discrepancies between 4/3 and 5/2 openings.

May 27

Quarterstaff Granite Statue & Setmoth

As there seems to be continued interest in this 1988 RPG title, I went ahead and uploaded two walkthrough pages for the toughest fights in the game: the Granite Statue and the final boss Setmoth. I also updated the walkthough to include instructions for how to recruit the Insane Druid. Thanks to visitor Donovan for the tip!

I still have several more walkthrough sections needing to be uploaded, including the armour database and the final levels of the game. If anyone is interested in those specific sections, please contact me and I’ll prioritize getting them uploaded.

Feb 18

CypherSolve v1.0

A project I’ve worked on sporadically over the past decade, CypherSolve v1.0 is the Javascript incarnation of my simple substitution cypher (commonly known as cryptoquotes) decoding program.

Recommended use of the program:

  1. Enter the text to be decoded, and run the program on default settings. The program will typically output a lengthy decoding list after 5-20 seconds or so.
  2. If the script is taking so long your browser is giving ‘script not responding’ errors, try either reducing the amount of text to be decoded (typically 15-20 words is ideal), or (particularly if the text contains many two- and three-letter words) try setting the tolerance value to ‘Low’ and running the program again.
  3. If the results don’t seem to be very helpful at all (not many results, without any significant amount of progress), try changing the initial possibilities value to seven or even ten and running the program again.
  4. If the results still don’t seem to be very helpful, or the program finishes quickly without making any progress at all, you can try enabling the THAT and -ING checkboxes, or even changing the tolerance value to ‘High’. Note: in these cases the program may take a while to execute, and you may need to choose to ‘continue’ even after your browser starts saying the script isn’t responding.
  5. If the program still hasn’t come up with a complete decode at this point, the text to decode most likely contains words that aren’t in the program dictionary. You can help the program with the decoding by adding individual letter decodes as you observe possibilities (e.g. setting the character after an apostrophe to S or T), or by adding new dictionary words to its database. Currently, the program will not store and remember new dictionary words. If there is enough interest in the program, I will implement a web database to store and collect new dictionary words for the program.

Yes, I know.. it’s yet another not-quite-game-related project, although depending on how you look at the activity of solving cryptoquotes, it *could* be a game. In teaching Educators about video games, gamification, and game-based learning, I’ve found it helpful to develop a set of criteria for how to (cognitively) define a game activity. Without going into too much detail, the five criteria I use are:

  1. Rules – all game activities have rules, or more specifically when we ‘play’ games, we agree to artificially limit ourselves in some way or other, for some benefit. Cryptoquotes definitely have rules involved, some of them related to the structure of the English language itself. For example, when solving a cryptoquote, you can’t just change letters in the encoded text, or put in things like apostrophes where there aren’t any. Also, each letter can only be used once (e.g. the letter E can’t be encoded as both Q and S).
  2. Goals/Objectives – in all game activities, there is one or more ‘goal’ or objective that players are trying to achieve. In a cryptoquote, of course, the goal is to correctly decode the quote, although many people who like do to cryptoquotes might add secondary goals and objectives, too, such as decoding the quote quickly (or quicker than someone else).
  3. Evaluative Opportunity – in all game activities, players must have the opportunity to evaluate how they did, related to the goals and objectives of the activity, the performance of other players, etc. At first glance, the activity of completing a cryptoquote fails this criteria, because there is no specified time period after which a players’ perfomance is evaluated. Again, though, many people who like cryptoquotes are probably either internally or externally setting up some kind of timed trial for the activity (and thus making the activity into a game).
  4. Uncertainty – in all game activities, the ultimate outcome of the activity must be unknown by all participants. e.g. players don’t know for certain if they are going to win or lose, or how many points/goals/objectives they will complete vs other players, etc. This is the key characteristic that separates ‘games’ from ‘puzzles’, and at first glance cryptoquotes also fail this criteria. In a puzzle, you know what the outcome of the activity is going to be (e.g. it will look like the picture on the jigsaw puzzle box), and the challenge is putting all of the pieces in the right places. In short, puzzles may be enjoyable and challenging, but they are not games, because there is no uncertainty in (eventual) outcome. Once again, though, people who like to solve cryptoquotes are probably ‘gamifying’ the activity in this regard, by placing artificial constraints or time limits on solving the puzzles. When a time limit is added, suddenly the outcome of the activity isn’t ‘certain’ anymore.. the player might not be able to complete the activity in the time allotment, or as quickly as another player might. i.e. there is the possibility of ‘losing’ the activity.
  5. Controllable – in all game activities, the players must have the opportunity to make ‘decisions’ that affect the outcome of the activity. This includes things like strategies, tactics, physical execution, etc. In short, an activity is a game when players are presented with a variety of options, and choosing the ‘correct’ option(s) is more closely-associated with ‘winning’ (completing activity goals/objectives) than choosing incorrectly. Solving cryptoquotes definitely involves some amount of strategy, and there are of course a staggering number of possible letter combinations to try (actually over 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 total combinations). For example, many people (as well as the CypherSolve program) examine how frequently-occurring each letter is in the cryptoquote, and use it to make some educated guesses about specific letters (e.g. the letter E is the most-frequently-occurring letter in the English language), but there are numerous other strategies to try too, particularly related to noticing specific patterns in the encoded text.

In summary, if you like to solve cryptoquotes, at some level you’re probably adjusting the (puzzle) activity slightly to ‘gamify’ it.

Jan 22

Quarterstaff Walkthrough Level 2

Well, apparently a few people are still playing this game after all these years.. Google Analytics shows several searches for Quarterstaff walkthroughs, so I went ahead and uploaded the walkthrough for the second level of the game. I still need to upload the related pages for Armour listings and the specifics of the Granite Statue fight.. in my opinion one of the most interesting and challenging fights in any RPG to date. Because of the fact that players don’t gain XP or levels, and all weapons eventually break, players have to think seriously as to if each fight in the game is worth the resources and time.. and the ~1000HP Granite Statue is by a good margin the toughest fight in the game.

Jan 18

Origami Dragon

Dragon Diagram 101

Click on the image to view the diagrams.

Ok, I have to admit it.. this particular project is neither game design or theorycrafting related. There is, however, a very strong relationship between Origami and mathematics, and many of the modern super-technical Origami model designers are Physicists, Engineers, Mathematicians, etc.

During high school and college I was very dedicated to Origami, and spent hundreds of hours folding and designing models (the most promising of which is the Dragon). At the time, I intended to eventually write a book, and so never distributed the few models I designed. Unfortunately, thanks to developing tendonitis in both hands, I don’t do enough folding and design work anymore to warrant holding onto this model for eventual book publication. So, I’ve uploaded all 100 steps of the model here, and if there’s interest, I’ll upload what I have of diagrams for a few other models I designed over the years.

This is actually the fourth version of the Dragon model I designed. I especially enjoy trying to design fantastic/mythological creatures, as they often provide unique challenges and are more open to artistic interpretation than models of existing creatures. In particular, with this dragon I really wanted something with shoulder-positioned wings. Many of the other dragon models out there have wings erupting from the middle of the back, or even have wings connected to the forearms (more like the anatomy of birds or bats), but aesthetically I’ve always felt like a dragon’s wings should erupt from their shoulders. The design style draws a number of elements from two of my favorite designers: John Montroll and Jun Maekawa, and folders familiar with the models of these two masters will probably spot the similarities. Note: I am not in any way attempting to claim that my folding and designing skills are on par with either of these master folders, but rather that I drew a lot of inspiration from their vast collection of models, particularly Montroll’s early open back designs (from Origami For The Enthusiast through Mythological Creatures And The Chinese Zodiac In Origami), and Maekawa’s Winged Devil in Genuine Origami.

Although there are aspects of the dragon model I like quite a lot, for example the sinuous length of the neck and tail, and the shoulder-positioned wings, there are of course a few aspects that I have never been satisfied with (which is why I am still slowly working on a fifth version). The wings, for example, are smaller than I would really like, and I did have to make one concession when it came to economy of (paper) space: there is one point that simply gets folded inside the body of the model, and it serves no purpose. I briefly toyed with the idea of making the point erupt out of the back of the dragon and somehow forming it into a rider, but I could never manage anything that I liked with that regard. For those interested in the design itself, the crease pattern for the model is below.


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