unity 2012

My son asked me “so when the room is not full of hundreds of people playing board games, what do they use it for?”. That day, at the Woburn Hilton Hotel, it didn’t really matter. The main ballroom (as well as a few surrounding hallways) was packed with tables full of people playing games. In the Eastern Massachusetts area there is a loose coalition of gamers and game-groups known as Unity Games. Occasionally they hold full-day gaming events and this past Saturday was one of those. As most people who know me know, when I say boardgames, I don’t mean one of the hundreds of licensed Monopoly re-treads. I am referring to the growing market of games that have a bit more depth and are a lot more fun.

On Saturday we managed to play five different games. We started with a light game that could be played two-player, just to get into the swing of it. Dungeon Raiders was a fun light card game that captured the idea of a dungeon crawl pretty nicely. I think it needed to be played with 3-5 to get a bit more competition on the adventure cards. Next we played a 3-player game of Elder Sign, one of many recent H.P. Lovecraft-themed games from Fantasy Flight. This one is a cooperative game that uses a currently very popular mechanic of very Yahtzee-like sets of six-sided die rolls. Given the theme, multiple choices for characters to play and the random “big bad” that sets the tone for the game, I think it will have a lot of replay value – that is if you don’t mind lots of random die rolls. We did get one key rule wrong in this one that made our victory a little too easy. I look forward to playing this one again. Following this we played a four-player game of Discworld: Ankh-Morpork, an area control game that has lots of funny randomness which follows the theme of Terry’ Pratchett’s universe very nicely. I liked this one a lot but we ran into a player who seemed to suffer form analysis paralysis and took forever to take his turns. ImageThis of course was ironic in a game that had so much chaotic randomness. Next up, a familiar game of Race for the Galaxy. We taught a new player how to play the game so it was a little slow but fun as always….and my son won again, as always. Lastly we played a four-player game of Kingdom Builder, with my gaming friend Aaron (who of course won). I’ve played Donald X. Vaccarino‘s newest game twice now and I think I am starting to like it. It could suffer from the “multi-player solitaire” problem like his previous hit game Dominion does, but savvy players will start to add defensive moves where possible to try to block others from romping.

All in Unity was a great day. I also managed to sell off a number of game stat had been collecting dust in my basement  – and I only bought one new game. There is nothing like being in a ballroom packed full of people enjoying your favorite hobby.


ImageDue to a serendipitous alignment of schedules and events I got to spend some time in the world of my brother Bob this week. Technically I got to spend some time in a place where my world and my brother Bob’s world intersect. Bob Franzosa is a professor of mathematics at the University of Maine in Orono. His specialty is in topology. This past week he was in Boston attending the largest annual mathematics meeting in the world held at the Hynes Convention  center. As I am currently “between  assignments” I had the time available to join him there. On Wednesday I attended the talk he gave on his lifetime passion “The Baseball Simulator” which was born as a dice game he created in the 1960’s and grew into an interesting tool to evaluate baseball using minimal statistics. Yesterday I sat in with him on a session dedicated to puzzles. While the relevance of the orthoganality of Magic Sudoku puzzles was a bit lost on me, the discussions on the construction and solving of puzzles was right up my alley….and the excitement over the potential proof of the 17-clue minimum for sudoku was great. Sometimes the dice of the universe give you a critical miss but it is ok because you find that the next roll yields something even better.


We had visitors over the past week….my mother, my brother Bill, his daughter Calina and her husband Nathaniel. Bill and Nathaniel are serious foodies and we ate wonderful food for a few days while they were here. The list below is a summary of the meals we cooked together. Most of the vegetables came from either the Wilson Farm CSA or the Arlington Farmer’s Market. The other ingredients came from a variety of sources including the North End and COSTCO.


Dinners & Lunch:

Blue Ribbon Barbeque Pulled Pork, Spicy Sausage & Burnt Ends

Steamed Wax and Green Beans

Tomato Basil Salad


Cauliflower Fried in Garlic and Butter with Chives

Chard Sautéed with Mushrooms and Peppers

Tomato Basil & Fresh Mozzarella Caprese Salad

Fresh-picked Wilde Porcini Mushrooms Sautéed in Butter

Cheese Tortellini in Sage Brown Butter


Fresh-boiled Lobster Salad with Tarragon and Chive Mayonnaise on a Green Salad with Peppers and Mandarin Oranges


Fig, Basil, Guanciale, Fresh Mozzarella Bruschetta

Spinach Salad with Mandarins, Pine nuts, Craisins, and Farm-fresh Hard Boiled Eggs

Fettuccine with Eggplant and Mushroom Tomato Sauce


Tomato Basil Burrata Appetizers

Beer Batter Bread

Grilled Delicata and Acorn Squash

Grilled Poblano Peppers Stuffed with Gouda Cheese and Wrapped in Bacon

Grilled Chicken and Apple Sausages

Cole Slaw with Ginger, Apple, Mandarins, Walnuts and Sesame-Ginger Dressing



Whole Wheat Raisin Scones

Oatmeal Muffins

Beer Batter Pancakes with Mint Asian Pear Compote



Apple Crisp (from cousin Diana)

Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownies (Stephanie’s specialty)


next week, August 9-13, brings the National Poetry Slam competition to Boston. The schedule of events can be pretty daunting so I’ll help you out….go to these two opening bouts Bout 10 at All Asia in Cambridge and Bout 17 at Cafe 939 in Boston. My nephew Dylan Garity is on the SlamMN! team from Minneapolis and he is definitely worth checking out. Unfortunately I have to travel for work otherwise I’d be there as well. In case you have any concerns about what you might see or hear…here is Dylan performing at a competition last year.

good luck Dylan!


The family did our first successful letterboxing adventure today. My younger son had done it at his camp early this past week do we thought it would be a fun family adventure. After a failed attempt at what should have been low-hanging fruit for us (the micro-box was gone), we did the Paul Revere Rules! Letterbox. It worked out great and it was great way to discover two new sites in Lexington Center that I never know existed, I think from now on we will be sure to look some of these up before we travel anywhere.


creative talents seem to run strong through my family…my niece Julia Franzosa in California is a very talented photographer….you can check out some of her work here. If you find yourself in northern California seeking a photographer, look her up


we did a family vacation at the Smuggler’s Notch resort in Vermont last week…Lots of fun for all…photos here


pic213590_t.jpgThe other day my older son came home with some homework that involved doing some history research. He had to look up some information online on Hannibal’s famous war-elephant march on the Roman Empire. Being the good father that I am I mentioned to him that there is a very highly rated game that acts out some of the history around the Second Punic War. This, of course, was a great “reason” for me to finally invest in the new reprint of that game, Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage. I’ve actuially never played it but I’ve  now walked through almost all the rules and am ready to go through some of it with him. He seems mildly interested but, even though he is an avid Magic: the Gathering player, heavy rule sets tend to intimidate him. Of course I would love the opportunity to play with some of the real experts out there that I know occasionally read this blog.


I’ve forgotten how much fun a new little kitty can be….




My father-in-law died earlier today. He had been quite ill since the holidays and the last few weeks were a pure rollercoaster of hospital adventures. It is a blessing that that ride is over. He was a very good man and a wonderful Opa for my sons. He lived a mostly uncomplicated, good, long life. The pastor at the church where we are arranging the funeral asked if he was a veteran – he was, in fact, a veteran of World War II, but not in the way the pastor was asking as he was raised in Waldenbuch, near Stuttgart in the 1920’s. He came to the United States on a family sponsorship in the 1950s and settled in New Jersey to have a family (my mother-in-law, my wife, and her brother). After his children left for college and subsequently started their own families he stayed with Oma in New Jersey, until recently when they moved to an apartment near my brother-in-law in the greater Philadelphia area. He loved his new home where he could look out his fourth-floor balcony over the school sports fields and watch multiple simultaneous soccer practices and games.  He always enjoyed a good soccer game, a sharp schnapps after a meal, and beautiful view. He will be remembered well.

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