Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Square 96: Catan

One of the hottest board games around is Settlers of Catan and its various expansions. My friends, Brenda and Judy, introduced me to it several years ago and I've been addicted ever since, sharing the joy with my friends and family. The basic idea is that you build settlements and cities around the island of Catan, produce and trade resources from the surrounding terrain, use them to build more roads and settlements to expand your influence and win the game. One interesting peculiarity of the game is that you cannot progress without cooperating (to some extent) with the other players by trading resources. Another interesting element is that when your turns ends you don't stop participating; During other people's turns you can produce and trade resources.

This square represents the colours of the terrain hexes in Catan: forests produce lumber, hills produce brick, mountains produce ore, plains produce wheat, and pastures produce wool.

The expansion Cities and Knights of Catan introduces more complex strategies to the game. In the variant Starfarers of Catan, you blast into outer space, colonize new planets and encounter alien races who offer strategic alliances. Starship Catan is a two-player version. These are the ones Danny and I own, but there are other variations as well. In each game you must beware of pirates who can steal your resources and even break down your cities.

Through a friend of a friend, I hooked into a group that gets together to play Cities and Knights of Catan one Monday evening a month. On long weekends we hold day-long tourneys, bring potluck and invite other friends and partners along, and play all the other variants. Danny and I play practically every weekend. There is a computer version you can play solo—it's my favourite way to kill time. I've introduced the rest of my family to it as well.

Everybody likes it except for Brenna. You see, some of my friends are too competitive.

Two years ago I had just acquired Starfarers of Catan before Christmas. I was driving home from somewhere with my daughters and two friends, and most of us were getting excited about trying the new game.

"I'll pass," said Brenna, sounding blasé.

"Oh come on," said her sister. "It's more fun if we all play."

"No thanks."

We tried to cajole her, to no avail.

Finally I said, "What don't you like about it?"

"I think," said Brenna, "I've been over-exposed to Lesbians of Catan."

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Square 95: Winter mornings

Square 095

Five months ago in this blog I expressed my ambivalance about purchasing and using a light box to overcome seasonal depression, but as it turns out I've liked it pretty well. In October I bought one and started using it every day. In four months I've missed using it less than 10 times.

I enjoy the ritual. Each morning I lie in bed listening to music and the news for a few minutes. By 6:15 I get up, put on the kettle, go to bathroom, choose a flavour of the day from my tea drawer, make a pot of tea and a light breakfast, then sit with my face about 12 inches from the light for 20 minutes. It's an opportunity to start the day right, doing something I enjoy. Usually I knit. Yes, practically all the squares I've knitted for this blog since New Year's have been completed first during those light sessions.

Afterward I focus for a few minutes on creative writing, my first step in The Six Changes Method I wrote about here on January 13. Then I usually have a few minutes to spare for a shower or a perusal of friend's blogs before I leave for work at 8:00.

Two months ago it was still dark outside when I left for work. Now daylight has begun to seep back into the mornings. Sometimes while I fix the pot of tea, if the sky is partly clear I can see dawn breaking over the city through my southeast window. With streetlights and sheets of vapour rising, the skyline looks a lot like the colours in this square. Tomorrow morning the sun will rise at 7:09 a.m. when I will probably be writing at my oak desk. I look forward to watching the progress of morning over the next few weeks.

Before long it will be time for me to stop using the light box—daylight will take its place—but I will maintain the rhythm of getting up at the same time every morning and devoting a sweet hour or so to my creative pursuits. When I was young, it was my favourite time of day, and I think it is becoming so again.