Friday, November 6

Makeshift Mic Stand

Singing and playing a fake plastic guitar at the same time. 

Sunday, November 1

Ticket to Ride vs. Thurn and Taxis

Recently, Cait and I have been playing quite a bit of Ticket to Ride: ten times in the past month, plus a handful of plays of Switzerland and Nordic Countries, the maps for fewer players. (We still prefer 1910’s Big Cities with two, as mentioned in my recent Boardgames! post.)

This weekend we picked up Thurn and Taxis, another Spiel des Jahres winner, and have already gotten seven games in as of this writing.

The games have some similar mechanics: route building, card drafting, and a race to trigger the end of the game. As co–Spiel des Jahres winners, they’re both lightish, family-friendly Euros. They also share, at least as we play them, an “oops, sorry I got in your way” level of player interaction, rather than explicit conflict.

Though I still enjoy Ticket to Ride, I’m really starting to prefer Thurn and Taxis, and not just because it’s the newer, shinier game in our collection.

Porcupine Islands, Bar Harbor

Window view, two days in a row. 

Saturday, October 31

GeoLogTag: Geotag With Any Camera for $5 (+ iPhone)

Today Cait and I wandered around Acadia National Park with our SLR (a D50 with Nikon’s 18–200mm VR, both highly recommended, though the D50 has been effectively replaced by the D40). I wanted to geotag the photos (maps on computers are fun) but, alas, the D50 does not have GPS.

The iPhone does though, so I was able to use a nifty app called GeoLogTag [iTunes, $5] to do the tagging for me.

Thursday, October 29

Songs I Like in Languages I Don’t Understand

I made this playlist a few weeks ago and stuck it in my sidebar, but since I’m starting a little series I thought I’d call it out in a post.

Here are five songs I like in languages I don’t understand:

Boats and Being on Them

The first track from The Darwin Song Project, “Trust in the Rolling Ocean,” has been running through my head the past few days. It’s inspired me to put together a quick playlist of some of my favorite songs about boats and, in particular, being on them:

Monday, October 12

Pizza Blog!

Found this on my door. Glad to see them on Blogger (, but maybe I should let them know about our free custom domain hosting.

Also, if you're in Porter Square and like fancy weird pizza, check them out.  

Saturday, October 10

Scavenger Hunt in the Graveyard

Getting Board-Gamey with Board Games #3: Play Against the Machine

For the first and second parts of this mini-series I talked about playing board games mostly with Cait. Today I want to cover some iPhone and computer versions of board games that have a single player mode against an AI. (Useful for when Cait is blogging.)

The iPhone game I’ve been enjoying the most is Renier Knizia’s Robot Master [iTunes, $0.99]. As a board game I can see how it might give limited enjoyment (its BGG rating is 6.47), but as a solitaire iPhone game it’s tremendous.

In Robot Master, you’re given tiles one at a time and must place them on a 5×5 grid. The tiles are valued between 0 and 5 points, and your score at the end is (Knizia-style) the lowest of all of the row and column sums. Two of the same value tile along the same row or tile scores 10× the tile’s value — lousy for 0 or 1, but pretty valuable for 4 and 5. Three of the same tile in a row or a column scores as 100 points, which is a great use of those low-value tiles.

The “deck” has six of each value, so in each game a random eleven tiles won’t be seen. This adds a good amount of tension as you get down to the last few empty squares and hope that you’ll draw that one 4 you need to go from 11 to 57.

Overall, trying to place the tiles to maximize their values across two axis — while not knowing what will come next — makes for a great game. It plays quickly (I can usually do several rounds during a subway commute) and is perfectly suited for the iPhone’s touch interface.

Against the computer, one player takes the rows and the other the columns. I haven’t actually given this mode a shot because going for high scores on solitaire has been so much fun.

Wednesday, October 7

By the Tank

Having an awkward meal at Legal's. It's hard to eat while being stared at by fish.

Tuesday, October 6

Getting Board-Gamey with Board Games #2: More Board Games!

Yesterday I posted a bit in depth about some of the games that Cait and I have been playing recently. Those aren’t the only ones that hit the table, though. Here are some others:
  • Lost Cities. Nostalgia! One of our first games, from back in San Jose. We brought it back out for the memories, even though we don’t like it as much as…
  • Battle Line. More of the aggravating (in a good way) “should I play now or wait” than Lost Cities, plus more in-depth, tactical play.
  • Ticket to Ride: Switzerland. An expansion specifically for two or three players, but we’d rather play the USA map and 1910’s Big Cities.
  • Mystery Rummy: Jekyll & Hyde. Nothing exciting, probably a solid 6 on the BGG ratings scale. The Jekyll / Hyde mechanic is a clever addition to Rummy.
  • Agricola. An old favorite. Still pretty. I seem score lower each game, though, I think from trying to over-optimize.
  • 1960: The Making of the President. This one is growing on us as we get a feel for how it plays out. Unfortunately it’s not practical to track the electoral college numbers during the game. It is fun to run a pro–Civil Rights campaign in the Northeast as Nixon, however.
  • Wits & Wagers. Go-to party game. This is usually the first (and inevitably the second) game I bring out whenever there are 5 or more people around.
  • Wise and Otherwise. Brilliant Dictionary-alike game if the crowd is right. (It was.)
Thanks for reading! Next post: boardgames against the computer (or iPhone, a type of computer).

Getting Board-Gamey with Board Games #1: Board Games!

I’ve gotten back on a board games kick in the past few weeks, and it looks like I have a few topics, so I can do another mini-series. This one won’t particularly help you lose weight, unless you run to the game store for board games and then run home after you’ve purchased some. I recommend this course of action.

We spent some time with the 2009 Spiel des Jahres winner, Dominion. It plays like a simple CCG (but no booster packs to buy… almost), with the innovative mechanic that you draft cards into your deck as you play. Since your score is based on the value of the treasure cards in your deck at the end of the game, but those treasure cards are deadweight in your hand when you draw them, there’s a tension as you balance the ratio of action cards with scoring cards. Fun with probability was had by all.

Tuesday, September 29

Getting Smaller with iPhone #5: RunKeeper

Two weeks ago I talked about using Couch to 5K to start running. I more-or-less finished the program and ran 5K during a workout.

At least, I think I ran 5K. This is an open question because I was tracking my run with Nike+, and got a funny result:

That speed plummet near the end there? That was when I was feeling pretty good, turned on “Fel Del Av Gården,” and really picked up the pace.

That it registered as a significant drop in speed is disappointing to say the least.

My guess is that when I sped up, my stride changed from the one I had calibrated the sensor with. I was moving faster, but my foot must have been in contact with the ground longer [pdf], so Nike+ thought I had slowed down.

Since distance = speed × time, and I no longer trust the speed measurement, how far am I really going? Luckily, government satellites are here to answer the question.

WSJ: Dvorak Users Oppose Qwerty Layouts on Smart Phones, iPhones

Dvorak Users Oppose Qwerty Layouts on Smart Phones, iPhones:
But so far, most smart phone makers have ignored Dvorak fans begging to compose emails and text messages on the devices with their preferred keyboard layout. That has forced Dvorak users to settle for jerry-rigged solutions.
I switched to Dvorak about three or four years ago. It physically hurt. I had headaches for a few days as I reprogrammed my brain to use the new letter positions.

It was worth it in the end, though: the reduced wrist movement I think has been a contributing factor to the end of the RSI I had in college. (Other factors: switching to a thumby trackball and no longer playing Diablo II.)

Nevertheless, I definitely am not interested in Dvorak support on iPhone.

I’m worried that putting useful letters close together would break iPhone’s clever software keyboard. It already gets confused enough with the “u,” “i,” “o” letters, which can often substitute for one another. Imagine throwing “e” into the middle of that!

(I find it amusing that, long after jammed keys stopped being a problem, there still may be a valid physical reason to put commonly-used keys far away from each other.)

Also, I’ve found that I just haven’t forgotten QWERTY enough to make typing on the iPhone’s keyboard a chore. While I definitely cannot touch-type in QWERTY anymore (I suppose one can only hold a single keyboard layout in muscle memory at a time), I still feel pretty comfortable with where the keys are when I’m looking at the screen. The auto-correction is also good enough that speed at which I can actually move my thumb is the limiting factor for my typing on the phone.

(Thanks to Gwen for the link to the article!)

Friday, September 25

Graveyard Panorama

Taken in Salem, stitched together with Pano. 

(Sent with yo!)

Multimedia message

Test for mobile video blogging.

Multimedia message

Taken at tonight's Harvard/Brown game. Brown almost pulled it out, thanks to a great late game drive followed by a successful on-sides kick, but it was not to be.

This is also a test of using MMS from iPhone. 

Wednesday, September 23

Getting Bloggy With iPhone #1: BlogPressLite

Just a quick post to test out the new, free, semi-official iPhone app for Blogger, BlogPressLite [iTunes].

Set up's a bit confusing (bet you didn't know that you already have a PicasaWeb account if you're signed up for Blogger) but it beats Mail-to-Blogger for posting photos. Tip: tap a photo for size and alignment options.

Since the app is a birthday present, I thought I'd post a picture of our cake.

Since this is also a blog, here's a picture of my cat:

Edited from the iPhone version to remove some blank lines, add the iTunes link, and include this message.

Monday, September 14

Getting Smaller with iPhone #4: Couch to 5k

In the past few posts, I’ve talked about starting The Hacker’s Diet, counting calories with Lose It!, and graphing my weight with True Weight. Now I’m going to switch over to talking about exercise.

I read Wired’s “Live by the Numbers” article on Nike+ just as I was starting the diet, and, apparently being in a fairly suggestible state, decided to try it out. Exercise is good for periodically burning a chunk of calories (with Lose It! there to ensure that I don’t eat even more to compensate) but better for overall helping me become a healthier person.

I had tried running for a brief time in college, but both individual runs and the entire habit were quickly abandoned. I did learn two important lessons, however:
  • Do not just put on a pair of shoes and start running.
  • Do not try to match pace with Andrew W.K. songs.

Friday, September 11

Rachel Efron: Home to Me

“Home to Me” performed by Rachel Efron. From the 4AM CD release party at Café du Nord.

I saw Rachel Efron when she played Jupiter in Berkeley a year or so ago. She has a great mellow jazzy-pop sound and a beautiful voice.

She’s touring in support of her new album, 4AM, and is playing tonight in Cambridge at the Lily Pad.

I’ve found two more videos on YouTube from the 4AM CD release party in SF: “A Fool Could Find a Way” and “Goodnight My Dear” (which is from her first album, Say Goodbye).

Thursday, September 10

Getting Smaller with iPhone #3: True Weight

I mentioned in yesterday’s diet post that Lose It!, while otherwise pretty awesome, does not include the Hacker’s Diet–proscribed moving average graph of your weight. A moving average graph is pretty crucial for smoothing out the inevitable weight fluctuations that you’ll see when weighing yourself every day.

The app I’m using to fill this need is True Weight [app store]. It’s 99¢, though there’s also a lite version with no import / export and limited graph ranges if you really want a risk-free trial.

True Weight is a simple, straightforward app that asks for your weight and then graphs it with a moving average. It also does the math for a few key dieting stats. (In case you’re curious, that’s not my data over there. The image is taken from the official True Weight screenshot page.)

As you can see, the interface is quite pleasant and streamlined.

Wednesday, September 9

Getting Smaller with iPhone #2: Lose It!

In my last post I pitched The Hacker’s Diet and shared a bit about my initial, positive results on a calorie counting diet. In this one I’ll talk about Lose It!, the highly-recommended iPhone app that I used for budgeting and actually counting those calories.

(I’d like to thank Daniel Jalkut and Steven Frank for writing about Lose It! on Twitter, which both introduced me to it and sparked trying out a calorie counting diet in the first place.)

Lose It! is a free (as in “go try it right now because you don’t have to pay any money for it”) app for iPhone and iPod Touch that tallies up your food and exercise and tracks it against your day’s budget.

Lose It! has a built-in database of a variety of generic and brand-name foods that is fairly comprehensive. When it falls short, you can add a “custom food” by specifying a calorie count and also an amount, for which Lose It! has a nice diversity of units (“bottle,” “ounce,” “slice,” “scoop,” “stick,” &tc.). I’ve found I’ve had to go to the Web to find between a third and a half of a meal’s components, though this has lessened over time. (As an engineer, I’m pretty much willing to eat the same thing day after day after day.)

Your food calories are added (and your exercise calories subtracted) from your daily budget, which Lose It! calculates using your current and goal weights, and an estimation of your metabolism from height, age, and gender. Lose It! is clever enough to adjust the budget down as your weight changes, since your burn rate will be lower when there’s less of you.

Getting Smaller with iPhone #1: The Hacker’s Diet

About two months ago, more or less on a whim, I started on a diet. I had had intentions of trimming down with EA Sports Active’s 30 day challenges, but a broken Wii disrupted my rhythm, and after it got back I just couldn’t get myself excited about doing poorly-detected squats and lunges again*.

This is probably just as well, as I would have been disappointed with the results. Burning 200–300 calories three or four days a week won’t lead to impressive weight loss, especially since I’d probably just drink it all back on without noticing: unless one is prepared to forego taste, alcohol, and pride, at 160–180 calories each two bottles of actual beer can easily negate an entire Wii-based workout.

(Also, squats hurt and I don’t like to do them. They hurt in the moment, they hurt later in the afternoon, they hurt the next day. If “regular pain” is a component of your diet and weight loss routine you’ll need a lot more dedication than I to be successful.)

The better strategy for weight loss is to count calories. I recommend reading The Hacker’s Diet for the full explanation, but here’s a quick summary:

Thursday, August 6

Twitter is Down for Hitler

They’d been doing so well, too, until this morning.

(Thx to Cait for introducing me to this meme. See also: Hitler as a Teaching Assistant)

Friday, July 31

Swedish Big Band Hip-Hop IS Better with Banjo

Buy on Amazon

Saw these guys on Colbert. Their MySpace (which has four songs to listen to) says their album is coming to iTunes soon. (Update: now on Amazon, though!)

I’m always a fan of horns and banjo, which is why I believe that King Oliver had it right. (Though Louis Armstrong doesn’t hurt, either.)

Update, 8/1: Correction. On further inspection, it is a guitjo. Even better.

Tuesday, July 7

Platinum inFamous: Fun and Not So Hard.

I just finished a good run with the Sucker Punch PS3 game inFamous, getting all 49 broze, silver, and gold trophies and netting myself my first ever platinum trophy.

Brad Shoemaker’s review of inFamous on Giant Bomb convinced me to give this game a try, and a comment he made on the Giant Bombcast about the trophies being not too bad to get got me to try for all of them. I’m happy I did both; inFamous is a lot of fun, and the trophy hunt was enjoyable, just hard enough for me, and rewarding to boot (as much as video games can be).

A hallmark of inFamous, and a chief component in its enjoyability, is its pervasive forgiveness. You could cynically characterize this as “pervasive too-easiness,” but I’m a casual enough player to really appreciate it.

  • You cannot die from falling, even off of Empire City’s tallest buildings (slight exception being made for some specific platforming sections, where death + checkpoint is actually preferable to re-climbing anyway). If you miss a jump, it’s usually pretty easy to just climb back up the building you were on.
  • Missions and even some boss fights feature liberal checkpointing. This was very welcome especially after playing GTA IV, where missions almost exclusively restart from the very beginning, before the often-tedious travel sequences.
  • “Stickiness” to assist with landings and prevent falling off. I’m a particularly poor at platformers (Cait has labeled me “hole-faller”), but inFamous makes some very tricky (and vertigo-inducing) jumps possible by subtly keeping you from over- or under-shooting the jumps. (As I understand it this is similar to Sucker Punch’s previous Sly Cooper games.)
  • Radar for finding collectables. There are 350 “blast shard” collectables across the city, and 30–40 “dead drop” satellite dishes that contain audio recordings, and trophies for finding some and all of each. Any nearby collectables appear clearly on your radar when you “ping” it.
All told, the game succeeds in cutting out 95% of the potential frustration of playing it, with the remaining bit being just enough to provide a satisfying challenge.

Getting all fifty trophies was a balance of playing through the story and some nice sandbox play.

I had to play through the story twice, first making the “good” choices and maxing out my good powers, and then again to be “evil” and to up the difficulty to hard. I found Hard clearly tougher than Normal, but not overwhelmingly so, especially after gaining experience and skill from going through once.

The 350 blast shards seems daunting, but their appearance on the radar makes finding them through exploration tractable (compare with the 100 pigeons in GTA IV, which really require a map to get). I had happened upon nearly 300 over the course of just playing through all the missions, and the rest were a few hours of deliberately pinging my way over all the buildings, ground, and piers.

Some of the trophies require a bit of sidetracking into the sandbox that you might not otherwise do. For example, the Road Kill and Casey Jones trophies require you to kill 25 enemies while riding on cars and trains, respectively. 25 kills is low enough that, under the right circumstances, it doesn’t take too long to get these, and working for them can be a good change of pace from the missions. In any event, it’s a nice way to encourage and reward the emergent play aspects of a sandbox game.

Other trophies were about experimenting with all of Cole’s abilities. Get Off My Cloud requires 100 kills by knocking enemies from a height, such as a tall building. Going out and trying for this explicitly would take an annoying amount of time, so instead I just made sure to do a lot of knocking off buildings while playing through the missions and eventually got it. This was a strategy I probably wouldn’t have pursued otherwise, so I was glad to have it exposed for me. The same with Red Baron (100 airborne enemy kills) and Oh, You’ve Done This Before (50 “sticky bomb” grenade kills).

All in all, inFamous was a great deal of fun to play. It’s combat is easy to get into and satisfying to execute. I was happy to spend the additional time in the game to grab the trophies, and pleased that it was possible for me to be completist and get them all.

It’s unlikely that I’ll find another game that I am inspired to — and have the time for — complete in this way, so I’m glad to have the one platinum under my belt.

Saturday, March 28

infoMania is Amazing

Not much more to say than that. If you like the Daily Show, watch infoMania on Current TV. Thursdays at 10, or clips on the InterYouTubes.

Wednesday, March 25

Legend of the Seeker

Just caught this promo on Hulu. I think that there is a land even beyond self-parody.

Wolfenstein 3D iPhone control scheme

John Carmack’s excellent Wolfenstein 3D Classic developer notes led me to check out the game on the iPhone. (app store link)

The writeup is a great read. Carmack obviously excels at writing video game engines, so it’s interesting from a programming standpoint, but I was pleasantly surprised by his game design insights. (Also, his bit about starting up quickly should be adopted by every iPhone game developer. Your stupid intro logos waste my time.)

The game itself is enjoyable, even though I don’t have any particular nostalgia for it. I’m only about three levels into it, and have been enjoying this look at first-person shooter roots.

What took a little while, though, was finding a control scheme that I was comfortable with. Wolf3D on iPhone began, as Carmack says in his notes, as a proof-of-concept for shooter control on the iPhone, so they offer a fair amount of customization.

As I don’t have prior familiarity with Wolfenstein, I’m not sure how it’s “best” to play it, but for my FPS comfort I was basically looking for a way to circle-strafe reliably.

I think the ideal layout would be a forward/backward and turn on one side, and a strafe (with fire icon?) on the other side. Since that’s not available, I came close by turning on tilt-to-move (and cranking it up all the way to 100%) and upping the thumb sensitivity a bit to 60%. This got the strafing and turning speeds about in line for a circle-strafe.

Nevertheless, the controls still don’t work for longer than maybe 15 or 20 minutes at a time before my hand needs a rest. The gripping and sliding on the glass just wears my thumb down too much before long.

Tuesday, March 17

Probably Our Last Game of Java

I was able to convince Cait to give Java one final play tonight. I think it was our last.

I find Java’s presentation incredibly compelling. Take a look at this picture from the Geek. Java has heavy cardboard hexes that you arrange and stack to build villages and jungles in a Indonesian valley. The verticality plays into the game mechanics: you move your builders around to jockey for the highest position in a village, and you can use tiles to cover up and join or break apart existing villages.

Java is curious for giving you rules but actually no indication for how to play the game. On each turn you have six action points (a hallmark of the Kramer / Kiesling “Mask Trilogy”) to spend on moving workers, placing tiles, drawing cards, and building palaces. Each of these can be used to score points of various amounts, so when you first start playing Java you have little sense of the overall flow of the game. You do stuff randomly to try it out, and since scoring comes regularly, a few points at a time, there isn’t any good feedback built into the system to tell you that you’re playing it “right.”

I squeezed one last game from Cait after going on BoardGameGeek and finding reviews and forums that actually explained how a game of Java should proceed. Specifically, the first several turns of the game should be spent placing the irrigation tiles and grabbing their easy points. Then, since you cannot place the jungle/village tiles on top of the irrigation tiles, they have effectively defined the board that you’ll play on for the rest of the game.

Knowing this, we tried once more and definitely had a better time of it. Getting irrigation tiles out early gave the session a guiding arc. The later moves, constrained by the irrigation tiles, felt less random. Cait’s still not a fan, though. She compared the dribbling out of bits of points here and there to playing basketball with just free throws. I’m enamored enough of the physicality of the game to still enjoy the experience, but will admit that Java is hardly a favorite.

Nevertheless, I find Java’s failure to provide direction out of the box a fascinating case study in game design. It’s interesting to compare it to, say, Agricola, which enforces a designer-proscribed flow by only revealing one new action each turn, or Mystery of the Abbey, which is entirely open-ended about what questions you can ask (not to mention the several different decks of cards to choose among) but that only serves to make it more rewarding when the strategy starts clicking into place. Even after we learned “how” to play Java, it was still a turn-to-turn exercise in local optimizations, with nothing great ever gained or lost.

Friday, March 13

Worker Placement: Agricola, The Pillars of the Earth, and Stone Age

Cait and I just finished our first two matches of Stone Age, which is the most recent of the new triumvirate of worker placement games (the other two being Agricola and The Pillars of the Earth). We had fun, and probably place it between the other two in order of appeal.

Agricola our the favorite because building a little farm is just a lot of fun. It’s even more fun with the clay pieces that Cait made. At the end of the game you can look over your land and just feel joy at the accomplishment. This sentiment is so strong that I felt incredibly dissatisfied at one of my recent wins. Even though I came out on top, I did so with a cold stone house, too many children, and pastures that I fenced in at the very end. It was not a fuzzy, pastoral scene.

Agricola also has three decks worth of Occupation and Minor Improvement cards, which, beyond just introducing variation for variation’s sake, really let you come at each game from a different angle. Yeah, some of them are ludicrously unbalanced (I’m looking at you, Field Watchman), but that adds to the fun and luck.

Variation for variation’s sake is The Pillars of the Earth in a nutshell. So much of it is micro-randomized:
  • Only 7 of the 9 Resource cards are available each round
  • For each round’s Craftsmen cards, two are available for purchase in the draft and two are on the board
  • 4 Event cards are left out of each game
  • 2 Privilege cards are left out of each game
  • Turn order is determined by drawing master builder pawns out of a bag each round
I can sort of see where the designer is going with this, but it just gives the overall game a fiddly vibe. The randomness forces you very much into the tactical end of that infamous continuum, so, by the end of the game, I felt like I hadn’t really accomplished much.

We’ve only given Pillars a few plays, so I’m not necessarily going to judge it, but there’s definitely a reason why we’ve been unable to put Agricola away while Pillars just hit the table once. 

Stone Age has a lot of randomness as well, in that your resource acquisition is determined by die rolls (and also the cards and buildings come out in a completely random order), but it’s very much manageable luck. If you really need a type of resource, you just learn that you have to potentially over-allocate your workers to it to increase your chances of getting enough. The tools help a fair amount by boosting the die rolls that need it, and, if you do over-shoot, the game is forgiving of over-allocation. You’ll definitely be able to find a use for those extra resources on a later turn.

I’ve seen criticism of Stone Age that the winner is the one who rolls higher, but I definitely don’t agree. The randomness here adds more tension than anything, and over the course of the game the die rolls will tend to even out. And, if they don’t, and one player happens to dominate by continuously rolling 6s when panning for gold, that’s just an excuse to play it again. It can’t happen twice in a row, right?

Now that I’m starting to burn out a little bit on Agricola (Cait and I are at 22 plays), Stone Age is a nice bit of refreshing change. Cait has also recently figured out how to turn her Risk prowess into dominance at Nexus Ops, so I’m welcoming of a game where I have a shot at winning.

Tuesday, January 20


Cait and I have recently been playing Agricola and been having a lot of fun. Though all the little cubes and discs give it non-trivial set up and take down efforts, that just means that we’ve been playing at least two games in a sitting to make it “worth it.”

Agricola has scratched a nice itch for me that was unsatisfied by some of our other two-player favorites, which include Battle Line (which is a must-try for anyone who likes Lost Cities but could use more depth) and light war games like Nexus Ops and Battle Cry. Building a little farm is a fun activity, and there’s a pleasant level of player interaction in the “only one person may perform each action” mechanic. The other player can upset your strategy (either purposefully or inadvertently) even though the overall tone of the game is positive.

I wonder how much of Agricola’s popularity and charm comes from its length. At the end of each game I wish I could go just another round or two, which makes me all the more eager to play another full game again.