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Posts Tagged ‘nicely-designed’

Smart Fingers Turn Your Hands into Rulers

You know when your uncle Pete comes back from a fishing trip and tells you about the giant trout he caught? “It was this big,” he says, stretching his hands out in front of him. Well, with the Smart Finger, you’d know exactly how big “this” is, and you could put an end to uncle Pete’s stupid lies and exaggerations right away.

The Smart Finger actually uses two fingers. The pair of plastic tubes slip over your real fingers and measure the distance between themselves. This distance is shown on an OLED display in your choice of unit, in metric or good ol’ ‘merican, and a click of a switch will store it in memory for later transfer to a PC.

It’s a wonderful concept. Just like uncle Pete, we tend to use our hands and fingers to describe size, and measuring length is a natural extension. The gadget itself is also rather nicely designed. The two halves join together to make a single bullet-shaped capsule which slips into a USB charging-dock, and the interiors of each part have a silicon membrane with a hole in the centre to grip any size of finger. Thank God they made it in green, though, as it already looks a little too much like a Fleshlight.

Is it as useful as a tape-measure for a quick check to see if the new fridge will fit in the gap left by the old one? Probably not, but for an extended measuring session, this concept design would work great. And if it gives you chance to shut uncle Pete up once and for all, it’s got to be worth it.

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My Fingers Are So Smart, They Measure [Yanko. Thanks, Radhika!]

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Review: Seek Prosperity At the Gates of Loyang

At the Gates of LoyangChina, during the Han Dynasty: Loyang has become a booming capital city. Farmers gather at the gates to sell vegetables, competing for customers and seeking assistance from various helpers. The goal? To move the farthest along the Path of Prosperity, while striking the right balance in investing money in the farm.

At the Gates of Loyang is the third board game in Uwe Rosenberg’s “Harvest Trilogy,” and it’s a treat to play (and not bad on the eyes, either). For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Harvest Trilogy, Agricola debuted in 2007 and almost immediately shot up to the top of BoardGameGeek’s best-rated games (though it has since settled back to #2), and the follow-up, Le Havre, is currently sitting at #6. I’m a fan of the first two games in the set, so when I heard that Loyang had been released I was excited to try it out. (And perhaps later I’ll go back to review the others.) Loyang is actually a predecessor to Agricola—it was designed earlier but published later. Although it’s not ranked as high as the others (yet?), I did enjoy playing it and it has some interesting differences from the others.

Overview

Loyang is for one to four players, ages ten and up, and takes an hour or two to play, depending on number of players and how prone they are to analysis paralysis. It’s published by Z-Man Games, and retails for $60. There are four T-shaped game boards, cardboard tokens, cards, and a pile of colorful wooden vegetable pieces. The components are nicely designed—the illustrations are reminiscent of Agricola but with a Chinese theme, and the wooden vegetables are a big improvement over the wooden discs and cubes that some games use for counters. The cardboard “Cash” coins are round with square holes, just like old Chinese coins, but you’ll have to punch them all out yourself. The game takes place over the course of nine rounds, in which everyone harvests their vegetables, play cards in their game board areas, and then attempt to sell to their customers to earn money. Despite the small size of the board, you’ll need a lot of table space to play.

Game in progress

2-player game in progress. Photo: Jonathan H. Liu

Gameplay

Each player starts with a home field with nine spaces, a storehouse/cart card, and a board with a vegetable store. At the beginning, each player buys a vegetable from their store and plants it in their field (which then fills the field with that type of vegetable). At the beginning of each round, players harvest one vegetable from each field, and then turn over another private field card which has anywhere from three to six spaces on it. Only one type of vegetable can be planted per field; higher-value vegetables like beans and leeks can only be planted in smaller fields, whereas wheat and pumpkins can be planted almost anywhere.

After the harvest comes the card phase, which will bring customers, market stalls, and helpers to your game board. There’s an interesting mechanic which requires you to play cards into a common courtyard area first, and then you play two cards—one from the courtyard and one from your hand—into your own board area. What this means is that if you have two really great cards you want, you have to put one of them into the courtyard first and hope that nobody snatches it up before it’s your turn again.

On the right side of your game board are two types of customers: regular and casual. Regular customers want a combination of two vegetables, and they’ll purchase the same combo for the next four rounds, earning you a little more money each time. However, if you fail to satisfy a regular customer, it can end up costing you cash. Casual customers want a three-vegetable combo and tend to pay a bit more; however, you get a bonus for having more regular than casual customers, and pay a penalty for having more casual than regular customers.

On the left side of the game board come the market stalls and helpers. Market stalls allow you to trade vegetables—but each slot can only be used once, and in some market stalls you’ll need to trade in two vegetables for one bean or leek, the most costly types. There are twenty different types of helpers which give you different sorts of advantages, from trading at another player’s market stall to getting you a lower price on vegetables from your store.

After the card phase, each player has a turn to plant vegetables in empty fields, buy and sell vegetables from their store, satisfy customers, and trade at their market stalls. At the end, they can spend cash to move along the Path of Prosperity—but the cost of moving up a space increases as you go. Moving to the third spot costs three cash, but moving from nine to ten costs you ten cash. And if you want to move more than one space, you have to pay the sum total.

After nine rounds, the winner is the player furthest along their path.

Verdict

As opposed to the other two games in the Harvest Trilogy, Loyang’s scoring system is pretty simple, so it’s fairly easy to tell at a glance how well you’re doing at any point in the game. However, there can still be some surprises depending on the luck of the draw, and how well you’ve planned in advance for future customers. There’s a little less head-to-head interaction than the other games, where one player’s actions can block another player’s plans. Some of the helpers do allow you to affect other players, and the courtyard during the card phase forces you to share your cards with the other players. However, during the main action phase of your turn, it’s mostly just you—so it can feel like there’s more downtime while you’re waiting for a player to finish.

The theme is done pretty well, and I think fits the gameplay fairly well. (Agricola is one of my favorites as far as how the theme and gameplay match up, and Le Havre is a little more abstracted. Loyang falls somewhere in the middle.) The first time you play it’ll take some time to explain all the rules, but once you get going it plays fairly quickly (again, depending on your players). The solitaire version has slightly different rules (and set goals to shoot for) but I haven’t tried that yet.

Overall, I really enjoyed Loyang and so did my fellow gamers. I think as far as how well the theme matches the mechanics, Loyang falls between Agricola and Le Havre. If you want more direct interaction and competition you might want to look elsewhere. Loyang is a thoughtful, easy-paced game which requires planning ahead and a bit of luck.

Pick up a copy of At the Gates of Loyang at your local board games store or from Amazon.

Wired: A board game about farming in ancient China, with excellent graphics and strategic (though not intense) gameplay.

Tired: Not a lot of direct interaction; slower players can really drag the game out.

Disclosure: I received a review copy of the game.

The rest is here:
Review: Seek Prosperity At the Gates of Loyang

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CellCraft: Can a Creationist Game Teach Biology?

CellCraft is a computer game designed by Anthony Pecorella. Image: cellcraftgame.com

This week GeekTeen John sent me a link about a just-released computer game called CellCraft. He thought I might like to write about it on GeekDad, because was fun to play and full of information about what makes up a living cell.  I even tried it out for a few minutes, and found it easy to figure out and nicely designed.

But in looking for some background on CellCraft, I found an interesting conversation regarding going on over at the ScienceBlog Pharyngula, written by biology professor Paul Z. Myers. It seems that among the scientific advisers for the game is David DeWitt, Director of the Center for Creation Studies at Liberty University. And certain aspects of the game suggest that the game is an introduction to the “Intelligent Design” view of cell composition. (Even the platypus characters in the game may be a creationist reference.)

Many of the comments on Pharyngula maintain that its creationist origins shouldn’t disqualify CellCraft from being used as an educational tool. They argue that it’s hard to get students to memorize the parts of the cell and CellCraft is an entertaining way to help them do it.  (Whether that is a worthwhile exercise in itself isn’t part of the argument, unfortunately.) But other commenters point out players may come away from  CellCraft with the idea that complex cell organelles just appeared when needed — no evolution or large amounts of time needed.

One commenter, who introduced himself as Anthony Pecorella, principle designer and director of CellCraft, writes that he took a “frankencell” approach “because it worked better for our story and moved through the material better.” More tellingly, he goes on to say:

If we had included evolution, we’d have parents up in arms about it and the game would have a much harder time being used in classrooms.

I’ve already posted about the dangers of trying to be “neutral” when it comes to teaching evolution. As far as I’m concerned, laying the blame on “parents” is a poor excuse. CellCraft may be a clever and creative game, but by leaving out important facts to placate a few extremists it doesn’t represent science, and it isn’t truly educational, either.

Excerpt from:
CellCraft: Can a Creationist Game Teach Biology?

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CellCraft: Can a Creationist Game Teach Biology?

CellCraft is a computer game designed by Anthony Pecorella. Image: cellcraftgame.com

This week GeekTeen John sent me a link about a just-released computer game called CellCraft. He thought I might like to write about it on GeekDad, because was fun to play and full of information about what makes up a living cell.  I even tried it out for a few minutes, and found it easy to figure out and nicely designed.

But in looking for some background on CellCraft, I found an interesting conversation regarding going on over at the ScienceBlog Pharyngula, written by biology professor Paul Z. Myers. It seems that among the scientific advisers for the game is David DeWitt, Director of the Center for Creation Studies at Liberty University. And certain aspects of the game suggest that the game is an introduction to the “Intelligent Design” view of cell composition. (Even the platypus characters in the game may be a creationist reference.)

Many of the comments on Pharyngula maintain that its creationist origins shouldn’t disqualify CellCraft from being used as an educational tool. They argue that it’s hard to get students to memorize the parts of the cell and CellCraft is an entertaining way to help them do it.  (Whether that is a worthwhile exercise in itself isn’t part of the argument, unfortunately.) But other commenters point out players may come away from  CellCraft with the idea that complex cell organelles just appeared when needed — no evolution or large amounts of time needed.

One commenter, who introduced himself as Anthony Pecorella, principle designer and director of CellCraft, writes that he took a “frankencell” approach “because it worked better for our story and moved through the material better.” More tellingly, he goes on to say:

If we had included evolution, we’d have parents up in arms about it and the game would have a much harder time being used in classrooms.

I’ve already posted about the dangers of trying to be “neutral” when it comes to teaching evolution. As far as I’m concerned, laying the blame on “parents” is a poor excuse. CellCraft may be a clever and creative game, but by leaving out important facts to placate a few extremists it doesn’t represent science, and it isn’t truly educational, either.

Go here to read the rest:
CellCraft: Can a Creationist Game Teach Biology?

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Transparent Nerf Guns “Clear” the Way for This Year’s Coveted Blaster

Forget the Clear Pepsi jokes, Hasbro’s Nerf Clear Series blasters (available August 1) present four of the line’s most popular products, and rather than using the classic black and yellow of previous versions, all four use transparent plastic, revealing the springs and wires of their internal mechanisms. It’s fun.

Here are four Nerf Clear Series blasters that Hasbro sent me to review:

The Nite Finder is, like the rest of the Clear Series blasters I reviewed, an older product that has been included in this line thanks to its popularity. It features a built-in “laser sight” that makes it fun for target practice.

The Maverick is a revolver-style blaster that packs six barrels, and advances the cylinder every time you pull back the action — which also primes the spring.

The Recon is a big, impressive-looking “Clip System” blaster. I love how it has so many different parts — barrel extension, “laser sight” attachment, a stock that holds an extra clip, and flip-up sight — in addition to the core dart gun. Most of these add-ons can be used for other models, and the ones unique to the Recon are removable, letting you customize your blaster how you like it.

My favorite of the four is the Deploy, a nicely designed blaster that “folds up” — the chamber and clip twist to the right, the pistol grip folds into the body, and the stock telescopes in. The Deploy sports a flashlight on the front, and with an awesome press of a button, the clip flips to the left and the shoulder stock extends, and the blaster is ready for action.

So, what is the purpose of these transparent shells? Beyond the fun aspect — the transparent shells tempt the nerdy user to ponder all manner of mods like adding LEDs — the line’s purpose is to help promote this year’s new gun. The real star of this year’s Nerf line is the Stampede, which is XXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXX!!!! (Sorry, embargoed until the 16th.) All I’ll say about the Stampede right now is that this new product will generate the same level of excitement fans felt about previous years’ “big guns.” It’s pretty cool, and stay tuned to learn more about it!

Tomorrow: The Stampede!

Originally posted here:
Transparent Nerf Guns “Clear” the Way for This Year’s Coveted Blaster

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Transparent Nerf Guns “Clear” the Way for This Year’s Coveted Blaster

Forget the Clear Pepsi jokes, Hasbro’s Nerf Clear Series blasters (available August 1) present four of the line’s most popular products, and rather than using the classic black and yellow of previous versions, all four use transparent plastic, revealing the springs and wires of their internal mechanisms. It’s fun.

Here are four Nerf Clear Series blasters that Hasbro sent me to review:

The Nite Finder is, like the rest of the Clear Series blasters I reviewed, an older product that has been included in this line thanks to its popularity. It features a built-in “laser sight” that makes it fun for target practice.

The Maverick is a revolver-style blaster that packs six barrels, and advances the cylinder every time you pull back the action — which also primes the spring.

The Recon is a big, impressive-looking “Clip System” blaster. I love how it has so many different parts — barrel extension, “laser sight” attachment, a stock that holds an extra clip, and flip-up sight — in addition to the core dart gun. Most of these add-ons can be used for other models, and the ones unique to the Recon are removable, letting you customize your blaster how you like it.

My favorite of the four is the Deploy, a nicely designed blaster that “folds up” — the chamber and clip twist to the right, the pistol grip folds into the body, and the stock telescopes in. The Deploy sports a flashlight on the front, and with an awesome press of a button, the clip flips to the left and the shoulder stock extends, and the blaster is ready for action.

So, what is the purpose of these transparent shells? Beyond the fun aspect — the transparent shells tempt the nerdy user to ponder all manner of mods like adding LEDs — the line’s purpose is to help promote this year’s new gun. The real star of this year’s Nerf line is the Stampede, which is XXXXX XXXXXX XXXXXX!!!! (Sorry, embargoed until the 16th.) All I’ll say about the Stampede right now is that this new product will generate the same level of excitement fans felt about previous years’ “big guns.” It’s pretty cool, and stay tuned to learn more about it!

Tomorrow: The Stampede!

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Transparent Nerf Guns “Clear” the Way for This Year’s Coveted Blaster

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