Development, the F1 Board Game
Russell Degnan

I can easily recall the first sporting event I was allowed to forgo "bed time" and stay up late for: the Wimbledon men's final of 1987. Whether my parents' realised it, or were merely helpless to prevent it happening anyway, this represented a watershed in what became (and has continued to be) an endless series of late-night sporting vigils for cricket, cycling, tennis, football, and in the immediate years after 1987, Formula One.

This was something of a pity though, because 1986 and 1987 represented the best two years of F1 racing for probably the next twenty-five years. Five drivers won races from four different teams in both those years, with three drivers contending for the championship decided in Adelaide in 1986. Subsequent years were less kind, as first McLaren then Williams dominated the standings.

The highpoint in my interest, and my board game making and playing, was in 1990. The cars lack any of my brother's precise (albeit much older) hand, but offset it with surprising detail in the colours and shape of the air intakes. There were plenty of teams and obscure names in those years for the aspiring anorak, and hand drawing each and every one of them was a handy starting place.

In around 1989, my brother made a wooden and paper-mache version of the board, now stored at my parents, complete with hills and painted colours. It was magnificent, but couldn't deal with number of cars, or an expanding sense of what made a good game. Other tracks were created, three A3 sheets big and coated in contact. Future board games would get cardboard backs and computer printing, but this depended on rulers and smudged ink.

Racing lines were introduced, and pass cards (for lapping vehicles). Somewhere there is a clipboard full of race results, each lap recorded against the number of turns, and the fraction of each turn used to cross the line (I can still calculate fractions for every number up to 24). Fastest lap times and time gaps, carefully recorded, and whole seasons run on the floor of a bedroom.

Probability simulations became something of a hobby as my mathematics knowledge (and my general nerdiness) increased. This came to its fullest fruition in cricket, but there were changes in F1 too. There was an obvious difference between a real race, with a small handful of passing manoeuvres in tens of laps, and a board game where a car could run back to front with a handful of lucky rolls.

Some basic ideas were developed around gears, where a car would accelerate out of corners, keeping its position; on tyre wear; and in making the better teams very slightly faster, turn on turn. There are further notes on game practice and recording results efficiently, and a multi-coloured board that made good use of a derwent pencil set.

And then? Computers happened. Microprose Grand Prix specifically, which was quicker to play, and somewhat more fun. Then serious school (sort-of) and university. The bits and pieces got filed in the cupboard, appearing only recently, when I decided to revive the board game. But that's another post.

Frivolous Pastimes 6th April, 2015 23:10:48   [#] [2 comments] 

Beginnings, the F1 Board Game
Russell Degnan

The Melbourne Grand Prix will mark 30 years (minus several months) since Formula One racing returned to Australia. For young boys accustomed to watching motor racing only from Bathurst, and only in its most bogan Australian form, the mix of international drivers, gorgeous livery and high pitched squeals was something else.

Board games were a constant in our household, not least because, with books, they offered a present option for basically nerdy children. My brother was sufficiently inspired by the Adelaide GP, and his acquisition of motor magazine, to make a basic board game.

The collection below is what I still have of the original. The Bathurst influence is there in the board choice, although for (I assume) space reasons, it isn't the most accurate representation, with Skyline misplaced, and a more rectangular shape. It also pre-dates the Chase, back in the days when cars could roar down Conrad all the way to the final corner.

The board is a single A3 sheet, folded many times, with tape over the track proper to keep the paper/ink from rubbing/bleeding.

The cars of this edition were shorter (1.5cm) than later versions, and flighty - meaning they tended to blow off the board if you breathed. The top was the 1985 version of each driver, the bottom their name, team and number. Each precisely drawn as my brother tended to be. Some of them with accurate helmets - Senna, my brother's favourite driver with his yellow - and instantly recognisable. A simple piece of tape on each side finished them off, and glossed them up.

1985 liveries were special. I've never smoked a day in my life, but the colours of F1 cars in the late 1980s is indelibly printed on my memory. Today's cars that hint at that era - like the black and gold JPS Lotus are inspired nostalgia. I'm not even sure the companies themselves even exist, so thorough has been the advertising cleansing. But brand awareness: not a problem.

This was F1's greatest era, when cars could pass on multiple parts of the track; when drivers were stars (Lauda, Piquet, Prost, Rosberg, Senna, Mansell...); the season well structured and evenly contested; and the money and glamour poured in. Tactically, it was also the most interesting, with tyre changes making huge lap speed differentials, turbos making fuel management paramount, and retirements from failing equipment a constant issue. I pushed these little pieces around tracks so often I could almost name the grid of 1985 even today. Until computers took over the imagination, and barring an extended period of cricket simulation, this was my favourite game for the next half decade.

Certain aspects of the game weren't thought through in great depth. The squares on the straight are aligned, which made it hard to swing through a normal racing line. The red squares - which required picking up a card of probable danger - are randomly placed, making for annoying places where you'd seemingly randomly crash on the straight. The green cards allowed a car to pass if it had sufficient moves to do so, with some attendant risk. It made the game one of pure luck: dice and cards. But then, I played most of them by myself, so it was luck for the eponymous pieces, not myself.

By 1986, a larger board (presumed lost) and 2cm cars provided the next edition. Only one car, the paper split, remains from the set: Alan Jones Haas Lola.

But there were plenty more to come...

Frivolous Pastimes 11th March, 2015 21:22:19   [#] [0 comments] 

Salary Cap
Russell Degnan

Salary Cap is a card game for two or more players that mixes luck, resource management and strategy.


Number of Players

Two or more; more is better.


A Whole deck is used. For more than three players a second deck is preferable.

The highest card is always the Joker, which is part of the trump suit. After that, the highest card is the Jack or right bower, followed by the Jack of the same colour as the trump or left bower, then the remaining cards, from Ace, King and down. When playing with two packs, if two identical cards a played, the first played is considered higher. Thus, when hearts is trumps, the order is Joker, JH, JD, AH, KH, QH, 10H, 9H ... 2H. The non-trump suits are played Ace-high with the Jack ranked between Queen and 10.

The Deal

Eight cards are dealt, face-up, to each player. The remaining cards are placed face down in a pile - the draft pile. A payment chip is placed on every dealt card. Each player receives 22 additional payment chips (making 30 in total), for them to draw on.

The Hand

The hand is split into four parts: the play, the contract, the discard and the draft.

The Play

The top card of the draft pile is turned up. Its suit is the trump suit - a Joker makes the trump suit no-trumps.

There are five tricks in each hand. The first three tricks are worth one point each; the fourth - the penultimate trick - is worth two points; the fifth - championship trick - is worth four points.

The opening lead is held by the winner of the previous hand's championship trick. Play then proceeds to the left, each player contributing one card to each trick. The highest card played to a trick wins it, unless any trumps have been played, in which case the highest trump wins. The winner of the trick leads in the next.

When all five tricks have been played the score is tallied.

The Contract

Unlike most card games, a card can be retained from one hand to the next, provided the player has sufficient payment chips to pay their salary. The salary of a card increases at the conclusion of each hand as follows

  • Every card played increases its salary by one (1)
  • Cards that won a trick increase their salary by the played value plus the points won (by 1, 2 or 4)

The Discard

At the conclusion of each hand, each player can discard any card they no longer wish to keep. These are placed, with a token representing their listed salary in the middle of the table - free agent cards.

Players can place and withdraw their own cards from the centre of the table at any time prior to the draft being called. Every player must have enough payment chips to maintain a roster of eight at the beginning of the next hand.

The Draft

When players are satisfied with their discards, cards are placed, face-up from the draft pile for each available spot on the player's roster. Each draft card has a salary requirement of one payment chip.

Players take turns to select any card for their roster until they have retained eight cards; choosing in the same order each round. Players select from weakest to strongest, ordered as follows: last pick goes to the winner of the championship trick in the hand just played; next to last the winner of the penultimate trick. If first pick is still to be determined it goes to the lowest scoring player in the round; by lowest total points scored, and finally by lowest card(s) in hand.

Players can choose any card on the table, either free agent cards, by matchign their listed salary amount with payment chips, or draft cards with a single payment chip. A player must be able to meet the listed salaries of their roster for the next hand and must have eight cards on their roster. There is a five (5) point penalty for failing to list cards for free agency prior to the draft being called, or for exceeding the salary cap when selecting cards.

The Game

Players scores are totalled at the end of each hand. The first player to fifty (50) points wins the game. If two players exceed 50 points the highest total wins.

If players are even, the winner is decided by: the winner of the last championship trick; the winner of the most championship tricks; the winner of the last penultimate trick; the winner of the most penultimate tricks; the winner of the most recent championship trick.

Frivolous Pastimes 8th April, 2012 19:19:18   [#] [0 comments] 

Surprisingly good and notes on something better
Russell Degnan

A while ago, I mentioned that all cricket games are crap because all cricket games have crap controls.

I am happy to say that I have been proven wrong, albeit in two dimensions, and without any attempt at simulation.

The Little Master cricket game is a really basic but addictive gem of a game.

From a very non-traditional side-on position, the mouse controls little more than the hands and balance. This is sufficient, however, to allow you to drive or defend off front or back foot, by pushing at the ball - much as in real life.

More to the point, it makes playing shots closer to real life. Timing matters, but it is not essential; the shot is stroked, not hit; the play is meditative, not violent (though you can be violent). It feels like batting (or at least throw-downs) in a way that nothing else even attempts.

It occurs to me too, that I continue to over-complicate the batting in the theoretical game cited earlier. With some (substantial) tweaking to convert from 2d to 3d, there is an elegant mouse-only approach.

The key is the realisation that the stroke and movement are separate but confluent. As the ball is bowled, the player should be moving the hands and weight into position. This can be modelled with a curved plane.

The thick red line represents the position of the hands, the blue the field of vision (from behind the stumps) and the thin red the field of movement.

Moving left or right (not seen in the picture) will adjust for line. Moving towards the ball will advance down the pitch, either a little, or a lot (marked by the top-most line). Moving down the screen will play back, with a raising of the hands and adjustment upwards as you move further backwards (represented in the curve of the thick red line).

With movement and weight distribution covered, that leaves the slightly more confusing problem of stroke-play.

A stroke is made up of two parts: the act of swinging the bat through at some angle; and the movement of the hands in relation to the ball, to guide, glance, push, defend, etc.

The first part is therefore represented by a cone of swing. Regardless of hand position, the length of time spent holding the button, represents the power of the stroke, from a defensive tap or glide, to a full follow-through. By dragging the mouse in some direction, the bat will move through the cone in the direction of push.

For a front foot shot, pushing forward with the mouse would swing through the line of the ball. Left and right would cut and pull. Back, would reverse the hands, resulting in a tennis shot, or paddle.

For a back foot shot, pulling back will hook, forward, a back foot punch, left and right the cut and pull.

These controls seem intuitive with a little practice, but back to front in terms of where the bat travels in relation to the mouse movement.

The second aspect, the hand movement, is straight forward. Releasing the mouse button will continue the shot being played (whether short or long), allowing the player to press early and wait on the ball. Moving the mouse after the shot will complete the final aspect of control: dropping or raising the hands (down or up), and gliding, pushing and directing the ball (left or right).

Seems simple. The only thing missing is a reverse sweep, though that could be accommodated by pre-emptively playing a pull shot to "reverse" the hands.

Of course, it still needs coding...

Frivolous Pastimes 29th May, 2009 00:23:02   [#] [1 comment] 

Short notes on a future cricket game
Russell Degnan

All cricket on the computer is crap. Most are worse than crap.

The best, occasionally give some semblance to a real game, before screwing you with a riot inducing lbw or ridiculous close in catch. Those few have been known to have fun batting controls, but none of them have ever had anything remotely resembling the nature of batting. And most make you wonder if the programmer really put soem thought into the interface design before cobbling together the graphics and other incidental add-ons.

The bowling controls are always an order of magnitude worse than the batting ones.

But why today's rant?

Mostly, it is inspired by what might have been. Games are a good rest break from perpetual reading, and flash games are suitable short to suit that break. Pinch Hitter 2 is good for that, resolving the slightly bizarre scoring discrepancies and pointlessness of Pinch Hitter 1, and hitting that nice balance between gaining successful control of your destiny and its enemies: difficulty and luck.

It also has a nice, simple interface, you click the mouse when the ball goes past. Subtly changing the position and timing allows you to direct the ball into different zones, and over different distances. Not easy, but possible. A sure-fire recipe for a successful game.

So, if mousebreaker can make a pretty decent baseball game, then surely they can make a decent cricket game based on the same principles?

Not remotely. As with most cricket games, they make two fundamental mistakes.

The first is to assume that batsmen hit a cricket ball, instead of stroking it. Thus, the game involves precise timing, to anticipate the moment the ball passes the batsman, and to hit it. If cricket were actually played like that, then everyone would bat like Brendan McCullum or Vivender Sehwag: swinging at every ball and trying to belt it to or over the fence. And indeed, in every cricket game I've played, that tactic is invariably the best employed, because, in a game based purely on timing, timing it over the fence is at least as good a strategy as timing it along the ground.

The second is to assume that because batsmen play different strokes, they need different controls. Thus, we have the ubiquitous three-key control: one for pulls, one for straight drives, one for cuts. No mention of the subtler (and for me, most prolific strokes): the leg glance, the glide, the square drive, or the tuck into the leg side - not to mention the hoik! Some developers have worked around this by using the foot placement as a proxy for direction, which works to a degree, but in doing so they lose the ability to distinguish between say, a well timed square drive, and a missed straight drive.

Batting is not just about choosing a stroke and hitting the ball. Under these systems a player has no control of the shot, being no more than a baseballer with three swings. There need to be greater subtleties of foot movement, back, forward or across, of stroke-play, and of the wrist that allows both placement and creativity of stroke.

Foot movement is too often simplified into a strange hovering shuffle around the crease. It needs to be considered as either a back foot, or a front foot shot, rising, or getting over the delivery, and made sharper, to allow the batsman to get further across, or out to a ball, instead of the perennial no-mans land you often find yourself in, should you be trying to play somewhat sensibly.

Stroke play needs to be recognised as being predominantly about the line of the ball, to allow proper defensive and worked strokes to flourish. Most sensible cricket shots are low risk, because you can play them at any time, and then wait for the ball. It is only the bludgeon and the flourish that requires timing and skill, which is why, at many levels of cricket, you don't see the latter at all.

Hence, my aim here is to note a better control mechanism, in the hope that one day I might have time to implement it, or if not, then someone else might perchance upon it.

Firstly, the aim should be to reintroduce the bat as the mechanism of contact, by taking our lead from baseball. There, the bat is contrained by the pitchers box, but there are multiple possibilities. From outside off-stump a low shot would aim a square drive, a higher one a cut, or upper cut. From nearer the feet, a drive, or whip off the pads, and from higher, various pull, hook shots, or back foot drives. This is mouse contolled, aimed at a specific point past which the ball will travel, and from which (based on the timing and arc of the shot) will derive information on whether the ball was centered or edged.

Secondly, foot movement, based on the keyboard will allow the player to go forward, back or across in line with the ball. Ending at the point where the shot begins to be played.

Thirdly, the shot should be in two parts. On pressing and holding the mouse button, the arc of the shot and placement of the feet is set. This allows the player to get into position early, and play a defensive stroke down the line of the ball, without needing to time it, as such.

Fourthly, while holding the button, changes in mouse position will direct the shot. Pulling back giving glides or glances, forwards a drive, and left or right to pierce the field. More aggressive mouse movement makes a harder shot.

Finally, on release of the button, the shot should be played, giving a timing point. Holding the button down plays a block. Holding, then releasing on contact allows a glide or glance. Lofting the ball would involve hitting under the ball, using power, then timing to get it on the center (or if unsuccessful, straight up).

Controlling the player properly would take practice, which should always be the aim, but the controls are also simple, involving just the mouse and keys until the player adjusts to timing and direction. But, fully enabled, any shot could be attempted and controlled.

Frivolous Pastimes 19th May, 2008 17:38:02   [#] [0 comments] 

Melbourne Train Game
Russell Degnan

A misnomer if every there was one, as the game-board is too large to play on any train in Melbourne, and it takes longer to play than any trip in same. It is a heavily strategic game, popular amongst the especially "avant garde" in Melbourne's laneway bars.


Number of Players

Two, one using black Queens, the other red.


A Whole deck is used. The Queens are special cards and should be removed before play. Aces are high, above the King. Twos are wild.

The Table

Clear some space on a table

Place the Queens at either end, shuffle the pack, and deal cards, face up, in the pattern shown. If any twos are dealt, place them back into the pack.

For a faster game the board (and the number of Queens), can be reduced, by removing rows while retaining the diamond shape. It's not the same though.

The Deal

From the remaining cards, deal five cards to each player.
Place the rest in a Pick-up Pile.

The Play

Players take it in turns to move, each move consisting of three parts.

1. The Swap

A swap is optional.

A player may swap a single card pile as many times as they like within the one turn, provided the swapping rules are followed.

Rule 1: Card Piles must be swapped along the diagonal lines in the diagram above.

Rule 2: The pile being swapped must contain within it a card that is within one number (up or down) of a card within the pile being exchanged.

Rule 3: You may not swap your opponent's Queen unless it is to swap into the final position.

An example is shown. The JS-6S pile is swapped twice: 6S for 5H; JS for 10C.

2. The Discard

A player must discard from their hand if they are able to.

There are three types of discards:

1. Same Suit: A card may be played onto any Card Pile of the same suit as the card being played. That card is added to the pile and will generally increases the number of swapping options available to it.

2. Same Number: If a card of the same number, but different suit, is played then the existing pile is placed on the Discard Pile. That played card forms the basis for a new Card Pile.

3. Any Two: Twos are wild. If a two is played the entire Card Pile is placed in the players hand. The two is placed on the Discard Pile. A new card from the players hand must be played.

A player may not discard onto a Queen.

3. The Pick-Up

If the player has less than five cards in their hand, they must pick up from the Pick-Up pile. If the Pick-Up Pile is empty, the Discard Pile (after shuffling) becomes the Pick-Up Pile.

The Game

The object of the game is to move your Queens to the spaces opposite. This is done by swapping cards according to the swap rules detailed above.

Frivolous Pastimes 20th August, 2006 19:20:22   [#] [3 comments] 

The not particularly wise crowd.
Russell Degnan

(via Crooked Timber) This game of Massively Multi-player Online Pong must be one of the most brilliant ideas ever. Each plaey is represented by a dot, that fades with inactivity, but otherwise contributes to the placement of that player's team pong paddle.

In theory, while a single player is limited by their concentration and ability to pick the bounce of the ball, multiple players averaging their guesses should be able to make good decisions, averaging each other out. In the screen capture below, the blue team manages this pretty well. A couple of players are in lala land, but the paddle is almost perfectly placed.

But the orange team demonstrates the problem with having very few players, and moreover, of so many people having no idea. Rallies do occur, and sometimes they are even good, but to consistently win, you actually need to think tactically about the current skill level of your teammates and balance your skill against their chronic inability. Consider the common mistakes:

Mistake #1 - Out of control newbies To be fair, there are no instructions, but with only a few players on your team, the appearance of someone new, fumbling around with no idea what side they are on, nor even how to play just makes things random. Play for a while and you'll realise that most points are scored in a batch while one team loses its collective plot.
Solution: Wait, or quit.

Mistake #2 - Mouse goes down. Paddle goes down Once they've worked out who they are, the next thing newbies do is move their mouse like its a joystick, down for down, up for up, and over-shooting the spot by miles. Get two of them and the paddle starts lurching like up and down like its drunk.
Solution: Compensate by averaging how wrong they'll be against your own position. However, since you can't be sure they haven't worked out their problem you need to do this as late as possible.

Mistake #3 - Over-correction Once enough people work out the paddle is the average position, you can get a rally going. Except for one problem. As the ball gets nearer, if it is going to miss the paddle, everyone colletively decides to pull it into place. You then get to watch it sail past where it is supposed to be.
Solution: Either don't move, or move just a tad and count on everyone else to, or move the other way, and hope the rest of your team isn't also anti-correcting.

Mistake #4 - The skewed centre Because most players are in the middle, when the ball is near the edge the laggards keep the paddle in the centre, even as everyone else moves towards the edge.
Solution: Over-correct, since there is room outside the edge, you get to be the person pulling it right across. Or the person who pulled it too far.

Mistake #5 - That bounced a lot! For some reason people are genuinely hopeless at working out where the ball will be when it rebounds off the edge a few times.
Solution: Get in the right position and hope people follow. Then correct. This is actually the one time where the crowd is wiser -- since a certain percentage would be wrong otherwise -- but it also creates an uneven, shaky, emergent position for the paddle that shows that, while the crowd is collectively wise, it is definitely individually stupid.

Which all makes for an interesting game. Because to win you need to second guess, not your opponent, but your not entirely random, but otherwise silent teammates.

Frivolous Pastimes 4th March, 2006 00:59:38   [#] [1 comment] 

An observation
Russell Degnan

This morning I was laying on my bed, looking at my bookcases, when I realised something. If I placed a drop on Perspectives of the World, the cascade backwards through Fernand Braudel's three volume Civilisation and Capitalism series; would break the slender Rice Economies to the right; and then Against the Gods to the left.

They would in turn break the Ascent of Science and Godel, Escher, Bach on the shelf below, simultaneously taking out The Ascent of Man and on the upward trajectory combine with the original shelf to make mince-meat of the historiography shelf towards the center of the bookcase, and probably the architecture and urban design shelf of thick books such as Death and Life of Great American Cities, the Grammar of Architecture and Spiro Kostof's The City Shaped/Assembled.

It was a very satisfying thought.

Then I realised I've got to stop playing that stupid splashing game.

Frivolous Pastimes 14th February, 2006 19:33:20   [#] [2 comments] 

A tribute to Sensible Soccer
Russell Degnan

By contrast with board games, or card games, the great failing of the vast majority of computer games is the longevity test. It is an area barely commented on; in most cases it is taken for granted that a player won't want to keep going with a game that has poor graphics or sound. That lacks the flash of a newer, brighter game. But I don't think it should happen - except from a marketing viewpoint - even though it is hard to pinpoint what makes a game that you'll return to indefinitely, and therefore, truly great.

Rd 3 (H) Bolton Wanderers 5-1
Unfancied third division side, Doncaster Rovers thrashed Bolton Wanderers in the third round of the FA Cup. New Japanese signing Masauki Kanno putting away four goals in a dominant performance. Manager Degnan was pleased, saying, "We've had a few injuries, which cost us against West Ham in the League Cup. So for Kanno to come in and play as he did and as we did is fantastic."

A few (non-multiplayer) games stand out in this way. Elite, with it's almost endless dimensions, Sun Tzu's Ancient Art of War because there is no clear strategy, and the pre-3d versions of Sensible Soccer.

Rd 4 (H) Cambridge United 3-0
Doncaster Rovers league form continued against a hapless Cambridge United, easing to a three nil win in the fourth round. Kanno scored twice again to take his tally to six goals in two games, but manager Degnan is looking to the next round against Coventry, "this is where it starts"

Sensible Soccer has average graphics, even for its time. The view is simple but it works because it enhances playability - as opposed to the isometric or perspective views that don't. As often as not I play without sound. And I have played enough that it is not that difficult to win any more - though it could be with some tactical enhancements. And yet, almost a decade after release I still play it constantly.

Rd 5 (H) Coventry City 1-0
Doncaster Rovers furthered enhanced their reputation with a shock one nil win against Conventry City. Never in any danger, Coventry were lucky not to lose by more, having only two shots on goal for the game, both from distance. "This gives us a lot of confidence, Coventry are a good side and we outplayed them today", manager Degnan said.

The true beauty of the game is that - like a good card game - it is easy to learn, and difficult to master. The controls are deceptively simple: one button, and the arrow keys. You control the kick with how hard you press the fire button, and the curve by pressing the arrow as you kick it. It is a difficult skill - integral to the game - and it takes hundreds of hours of playing to master.

QF (A) Liverpool 2-1
With their biggest scalp yet, Doncaster Rovers dominated Liverpool, with Kanno scoring twice to take his cup tally to nine. Liverpool had the best of it early, and were rewarded with a goal by Fowler. Doncaster responded with the confidence of a team that has won 29 straight games, pinning Liverpool into their own half. The winning goal in the 74th minute coming from a penalty, as they advance to the semi-final.

Similarly, tactics and player movements are simple but it takes time to master the timing that makes all the difference between a loss and a win. The simple graphics no longer matter. You become immersed in the game because the fast play means everything has to happen on instinct.

SF Newcastle United 1-1 (Lucas 76)
A thrilling late goal from makeshift striker John Lucas against Newcastle United has forced a replay in the FA Cup semi-final. Newcastle United might have the busier schedule, but Doncaster are struggling with a depleted squad, losing Le Grix and Kanno before the game, and top-scorer and the sensation of the season, Mark Moncur to an injury in a torrid affair. Newcastle opened the scoring, as Shearer glided through the defence and hammered home the shot. Rovers controlled possession but couldn't get the goal they needed without Kanno's striking prowess, until Lucas hit sweetly from the top of the box after replacing the injured Moncur. Both managers praised the opposition play, Degnan saying "Newcastle are one of the best sides in the world, so it was never going to be an easy game. Hopefully we can get our players back for the replay next week."

It is the learned behaviour that makes the game great. It is a rewarding game to play because, more than any other game, it takes skill, and practice, and never completely reveals itself such that the challenge goes. In some ways it is like learning to play music, with the difficulty of execution and the reward for successful completion being the most enjoying part.

SF Rep. Newcastle United 2-1 (AET) (Kanno 9, Dixon 114)
Newcastle United have crashed out of the FA Cup in a thrilling tussle at Old Trafford. In the same week they surrendered the league title to Manchester United, Newcastle were beaten by a Doncaster side that for the most part outplayed them. Doncaster entered the match with both Kanno and Buhagier carrying injuries but it didn't seem to matter as Kanno shot brilliantly after Dixon chipped the defence to put him into the box. But, "ten minutes of madness", Degnan called it, as Kanno and Moncur were injured again, and a brilliant long pass by Ginola split the Doncaster defence and Ferdinand skipped a tackle to score. Rovers dominated from then on though, playing out of their skins and it was Kanno and Lucas who were the hero again. At the death of first half extra-tome, a neat pass from Kanno collecting a goal kick found Lucas on the edge of the box. His shot was parried but Dixon slid in for the follow-up to put them in front. Degnan was thrilled, "this is as good a game as you'll see, the players were brilliant today"

The game is not perfect. No game is. But they don't need to be. Sensible Soccer is brilliant because it allows the player of the game the framework to play it. Any changes to it would not in any way change the way it is played. I'd merely tweak it to make it harder to score, or to make the managers smarter and more pro-active in career mode. In terms of pure playability, it is the game. And that is why it still has people playing it years after other games are seen as "completed".

F Manchester United 1-0 (Kanno 63)
Manchester United's treble dream lies in tatters, as Doncaster Rovers pulled off the greatest upset in FA Cup history. A second half strike by Masauki Kanno - his eleventh of the cup - was the difference in a dour defensive game. United started brightly, Beckham heading a ball goalwards, but the brilliant central line of Buhagier, Utley and Le Grix shut down the game to the extent that United didn't have a shot after the 30th minute. Indeed, United was playing so deep that Keane was to be seen mopping up attacks on the edge of the box, and it took a brilliant goal from Kanno to break the deadlock, hitting it on the angle from outside the box. the one moment for United came in the 76th minute, when Cantona was brought down 30 metres from goal. Buhagier escaped a card, and the free kick hit the wall leaving Doncaster to run out the last 10 minutes for a brilliant win. Manager Degnan was ecstatic, "this was our best game of the season, no question. How often do you see Manchester United defending from the box?". Ferguson agreed with the assessment, "We were outplayed today. We have the European Cup next week. We are looking to that".

Frivolous Pastimes 7th September, 2004 12:35:52   [#] [0 comments] 

Russell Degnan

Hedges is a short, simple game for two players requiring a healthy dose of luck and some small skill.


Number of Players

Two, one player plays low cards, the other high.


A Whole deck is used. Aces are considered both high - above a King - and low - below a two.

The Deal

Two cards are dealt to each player. The remaining cards are placed face down in a pile.

The Table

There are four empty piles between the two players. Each player may play cards in either their left-most pile, or their third pile - second from the right.

From the player playing the low cards point of view. To play a card onto oen of their piles, it must be lower than, or equal to, the top-most card in the pile to its right; and greater than, or equal to, the top-most card in the pile to its left (if any). An empty pile has no bearing on the playing of a card.

Similarly, from the player playing the high cards point of view. To play a card onto one of their piles, it must be greater than, or equal to, the top-most card in the pile to its right; and less than, or equal to, the top-most card in the pile to its left (if any).

The Hand

Each player takes turns at playing a card from their hand. They may play in either of their piles provided that they have a card in their hand that can be played. The aim is to hedge your opponent in such a way that they cannot play a card themselves.

After a player has had their turn they draw another card from the remainder pile, regardless of whether they could successfully play a card or no. Hence, a player will generally, over the course of the game, accumulate more cards.

The Game

After the remainder pile has been exhausted, the player take turns playing until they have no more cards. The first player to get rid of all their cards wins.

Frivolous Pastimes 22nd July, 2004 23:13:05   [#] [0 comments] 

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