Trump – the Game: Review

Trump:the board game

I’ve only briefly played “Trump – the game”, and I’m glad that I only paid 5 for this game, because in reality; it’s not worth more than that.

The objective of “Trump – the Game” is to be the player with the most money at the end of the game. We’re not talking Millions here, we’re talking Billions. You can do this in one of three ways: acquiring properties, playing “Trump” cards, and making deals with other players.

The players move their playing pieces around the board, and as they move money can be added to an unowned property, a property is auctioned and you can always draw a card too.

The auctions are one-off and players bid against themseleves to buy the property; you can knock players out of the bidding (regardless of how much money you have) by simply using a … “You’re Fired!” card (yes, that’s probably the only “The Apprentice” tie-in in the whole game, though).

Properties are, of course, the heart of the game, because they will generate wealth. The simple act of landing on a property’s space on the board will generate worth to that property…but this wealth is placed *inside* the property, and goes with it if the property changes hands! You also generate income through Trump cards; this is simply cash on hand and can be spent normally.

The game continues until all of the properties are sold. There are only 6 major properties, such as a casino, International airports, luxury cruise liner as well as many more.

On the player’s turn they can a) play one of the Trump cards they have, b) move around the board, or c) offer to sell one of their cards to the other players.

It’s all about acquiring properties, and getting a good return on investment

The Trump Cards are the most important part of the game system, whereas landing on the right space can bring in cash or trigger auctioning of properties. Unusual in itself, this movement system means that from the first turn you have to decide whether to build up cards for later in the game or to try and take your profits there and then.

Much of the game is dependent on open bidding and some cards enable you to forcibly take someone out of the bidding (ie: playing a “You’re fired!” card, or put yourself back in (via “The Donald” card). This means nothing is certain, even if you have the most available money. With the right cards and a little cash, properties can be picked up for way below their normal cost. The “Outside Investor” cards can also help boost your disposable cash.

The idea is to acquire the properties, each property has it’s own plastic box and as the game progresses, more and more cash is added to the property (into the box), thus building up a secret value (and therefore players have to remember what the value of each property is).

What is interesting though is that, throughout the game, properties come up for auction and the prices paid are always well over any possible nominal value – we established a broad average of about $200-$500m per purchase. The reason for this is that players, consciously or otherwise, work out the intangible benefits of holding properties and thus the ability to do deals and consequently, push the price up.

Once all the properties are sold, the game moves onto the deals phase. By this time, each player will have cash, cards and hopefully some properties. The fact that you don’t have as many properties as other players doesn’t cut you out of the action.

What is important is your number of good cards, and to a lesser extent your cash on hand. Basically, each player takes it in turn to play a card or propose a deal to another player or group of players. This deal can be based on cards in his hand or other knowledge.

The king of deals

Here is where half of the fun is. You can make elaborate deals such as “I’ll loan you the Hotel for two turns if you give me a Casino card and any one other card, but if I roll to get money I at least get $20 million.”

Deals can include buying, selling and trading cards, cash, properties and, importantly, borrowing properties from other players (although this isn’t said in the rules). In this way, holding a card such as ‘Receive $200m if you own both the Casino and the Hotel’ has value.

Through negotiation, you can rent the required properties for a period and claim the cash by playing the card. Alternatively, you could simply sell the card to an interested party. Of course, the other players will want a return from these deals too!

The kind of deals you make are really up to the players. Even though there are no clear examples in the manual, and nothing in the rules stating what negoations are and are not acceptable, we often found that really good deals could be made.

For example, one player could offer to pay another player $60m for the use of the Cruise Liner on the next turn and in return will give the current owner of the Cruise Liner a card.

I’ve also read about complex deals such as “multi-turn rentals”, “options” and “performance related profit splits”. I do not know how these work, but I’m working on a strategy on how to implement them the next time I play this game.

However, saying all that – the majority of deals can simply be reduced into the selling of a card. While some of the fun is lost, it does streamline things a bit.

Also, without the negotiation phase, players now have to make a choice whether they want to move about the board trying to get some wealth, or to play a card instead while you still can. In the old game, there wasn’t much reason not to simply roll around the board until all the cards were gone.

Once all properties have been purchased, all the players remove all the hidden cash from the properties they own, count up the money and the player with the most money wins!

The problems with this game

  1. The game plays sorta like Monopoly, but a very shorter version of Monopoly – you can complete it within an hour or even quicker than that.
  2. You start with too much money… $500 million to be precise! Heck you might as well just retire now — you’ve just made $500m! This really hurts the game, you should start out with nothing or have to roll the dice, or get an “outside investor” such as Angel Investor ($10m each)
  3. It’s not clear whether the $500m is either: (a) a loan, or (b) seed money and how much is meant to be returned. If it’s seed money, one could expect to pay 2 or more times the amount invested; and who in their right mind would invest $500m into a nobody anyway?
  4. The concept of starting with $500m may make you feel either incredibily poor
  5. There just aren’t enough properties – where is the oil industry, TV studios, apartments, hotel chains, food chains, utility chains? There should be minor and major properties
  6. Nothing bad ever seems to happen, sure there are tax cards – but you never seem pay “running costs” on your acquired properties; nor do you have to pay off salary desputes, legal bills or anything of that nature — where are the chance/opportonity cards?
  7. The denominations are silly, the lowest is $10 million; and the highest is $100m; where is the $1 million, $5 million and of of course the $500m?
  8. The thought that this game could be so, so much better; it’s mostly about deals… and how you make them.

The last point I made there is really what this game is all about; it’s about the deals — I’ve heard stories that players have been known to go into another room to make secret and shady deals — personally, I’d add my own rules, add way more properities and make it a much longer and harder game… I’m glad I only paid 5 for the game, I’m currently thinking of adding a few rules to make it a bit better, and perhaps print out some business cards with mocked up properties to help forfill my need for minor properties… I mean, according to Trump (well at least the game, anyway)… it’s just too darn easy to become a Billionaire.

If only life was like that!

Overall: 6/10. A good game that’s really about deal-making, and is a shorted version of Monopoly (but much weaker in overall game play, strategy and fun). Donald…. “You’re Fired”!

Upcoming action movies to watch

I’m not going to see Superman Returns, or Pirates of the Caribbean 2, or even teen action flick “Stormbreaker”; rather I’m more interested in the upcoming action movies that seemed to have gotten their kick-start, courtesy of Ong Bak; the Tony Jaa action movie.

Although I probably will go see Casino Royale (this is the last chance saloon for Bond, as far as I can tell), but I’m interested in how Free Running or Parkour is increasingly making it’s way into action movies — even Casino Royale has a free running sequence in it, and films such as Ong Bak and it’s upcoming sequel Ong Bak 2: Warrior King (which looks just as brutal as the first one) will throw down the gauntlet not only to Hollywood, but also to Hong Kong action movies.

Another movie I’m interested in seeing is the French movie “District 13”, which has had great reviews… but, like Ong Bak; it’s mainly for the action rather than the lazy scriptwriting.

Third golden era of action?

Is the start of the third golden era of action movies? The first, in my opinion, was the 70s kung fu movies and 80s steroids-powered action movies when we had films such as Death Wish, leading to all out action films such as Commando, Total Recall, Rambo and finally the movie that really defined an era; Die Hard.

The second era was basically between 1989 and 1995, the die hard clone era. Even direct to video movies tried to get in on the act such as the Cliffhanger rip-off Crackerjack. Anyway, I consider 1995 to be the end date because by then Die Hard 3 came out; for me it had nothing really new and no real action movies till the Matrix came along did we get something different.

But, the third era is different because it’s all about innovation. And although Tony Jaa has had his critics that his movies are very thin on plot, storyline and innovation (according to Donnie Yen), audiences are captivated by the brutal violence mixed with the innovation of using “Free Running” style action cherography to wow the audience.

I’m looking forward to the next few years, when hopefully action will match and beat the expectations of the paying audience and give us new thrills above and beyond the CGI wondermovie from Hollywood.

DIY: Don’t repeat yourself

A couple of weeks ago we were given a project where a table had well over 50 fields. Immediately, I thought WTF, but then when I had a moment to think clearer about the size of the project, we suddenly thought of the idea of using the concept of “Don’t repeat yourself” to help us build the form, the insert queries, the update queries, the delete queries, etc; and reducing the amount of work needed.

Essentially, we wanted to get the database to do all the heavy lifting, by providing us with the code for CRUD actions without us having to do all that much… but then, things are never *that* easy…

The maxim of “Don’t repeat yourself” first came to full public prominence through the Rails framework. Built for the Ruby programming language, it promised the ability to reduce headaches and strain; many coders of different languages have built similar frameworks built upon the MVC (model-view-controller) approach to building websites.

For the many PHP programmers, there have been a steady increase of MVC/Rails-like frameworks such as CakePHP (for the advanced programmer) and CodeIgnitor (for people who don’t have the expertise that MVC requires), and each boast a similar kind of philosophy; essentially — why repeat yourself in doing similar actions, simply your actions and use them accordingly.

Although using Object Orientated programming is nothing new, and whilst it’s true that many PHP programmers have utilised a vast library of classes, libraries and extensions; the concept of don’t repeat yourself can confuse the novice, and can seduce some into believing that the framework can do all the work, when in reality – this is not really the case, especially for big sites.

The best example of this I can give is that, let’s say you have a database table called “customers”, and it has these properties;

Example:
“customer_id (int)
forename (varchar)
surname (varchar)
wages (int)”

Ordinarily, you would have to create the HTML form gadgets for each of the fields you want on your page; then type out each of the field names; then type out the processor part (ie: saving it)..

But why even do *any* of this? The database already has the fields; so why do you need to type them out thrice? CodeIgnitor, Cake and Rails use scaffolding to build the HTML form gadgets and create all the stuff you want, immediately.

Although we’ve only used CodeIgnitor briefly, the problem (as I see it), is the same; scaffolding. What is scaffolding? Well, essentially you give your framework the link to your database and it will construct the CRUD (create, retrieve, update and delete) actions for you; it will also wrap HTML form gadgets based upon the database table you want, vastly increasing speed of development.

We were going to use CodeIgnitor or CakePHP to use it; but because of the learning curve and the fact we had to get the project out real fast we had to work around the issue by thinking differently.

The falacy of scaffolding

The problem with scaffolding, as I’ve seen in CodeIgnitor, is that:

  • Scaffolding doesn’t know which of your fields are Primary Keys, secondary keys, etc
  • Scaffolding doesn’t know which of your fields to hide, which are required (ie: e-mail), or how to validate specific fields…unless you tell it to
  • Scaffolding doesn’t know how to handle select boxes, multiple checkboxes, radio buttons and complex forms; it doesn’t know how to separate specific form regions into fieldsets

Although changing how the scaffolding isn’t really all that hard, and sure; you could do it… but the thing is, you shouldn’t have to.

The alternative: build it yourself?

So, we couldn’t use CakePHP (its built for PHP5 and our servers do not handle PHP5, nor will the host provide us with PHP5), we didn’t have time to learn Rails and we hadn’t the time to learn how to change CodeIgnitor’s powerful Scaffolding system to to help us build a complex, accessible form.

We are looking that the following options;

  1. Use PEAR’s DB_DataObject_FormBuilder.
  2. Build it ourselves; form gadgets and using the EZ SQL class

1) Using PEAR…

PEAR has a class to automatically build HTML form objects from a DataObject derived class. And this seems to be the way to go, and our thought (at work) was that you could use PEAR to create a HTML form based upon the database fields.

2) Build it ourselves

Using the EZSQL class we could capture the database fields and row metadata at the same time (in other classes we had to use two or even three calls to the database)…. If we built it ourselves, we’d have to build a form gadget class that would interact with the database and use a sophisticated rules engine to output valid XHTML output…

We felt it would be better to create a wizard, and feed in the table’s and their metadata; allowing the programmer to select whether a field is required, what function to validate inputted data against and whether it’s hidden. After which we could output (or write) a php file with the resulting code…

So how long would it take?

The second option would take forever and a day, and you would have to account for every possibility, every complex form gadget design… I believe the PEAR option is stronger — but both options would take a very long time to build.

By the time we came up with anything concrete; it would have been probably easier just to have built the damn form in the first place!

Screech is no show for comedy club

Former TV child star Dustin Diamond (AKA: Screech) was widely reported to be in a financial issue; resorting to selling t-shirts on his website to raise up to $250,000.

Dustin Diamond recently appeared on the Howard Stern Show, with a direct plea to Stern’s audience to help him save his house. Diamond explained that during his 10-year run on “Saved by the Bell,” he made about $2 million. However, Diamond suggested that his parents took around 75% of his earnings, which he said ruined his credit and placed him in a position today, where he’s in danger of losing his home.

Artie Lange, feeling charitable, invited Diamond the chance to open two of Artie Lange’s stand up comedy gigs in Pittsburgh. Considering the fact that Lange doesn’t know Diamond it seemed like a generous offer, an offer that would pay Diamond $2,000 for just 10 minutes work…

But, Diamond never showed! Despite the fact he’s in financial ruin, forced to pimp T-shirts on radio shows he never showed up for the stand up comedy gig.

“When Artie gave him an opportunity, what does he do, he doesn’t show up? Artie really doesnt even know this guy, he was just doing something very, very kind, and in turn this douchebag doesnt even show up.” said a disgusted Sal the Stockbroker.

Worse still, questions have been raised about the whole campaign. Diamond mentions that he has 30 days to pay off his creditors, yet; his website has been running for over 30 days last Friday — did he pay off his debt? Is he now homeless? Or, is it – as many have argued, a desperate and cynical publicity stunt?

Additionally, many posters have argued that what Screech is basically asking for, is that his fans pay off his debts, and his mortgage… People have even pointed out, he’s been trying to escape the “Screech” character for well over 10 years through blue humor – but the second he needs money, he jumps on the “yes, I’m screech” bandwagon…

I mean, couldn’t he just declare himself bankrupt? Or get a better job? The least he could do is turn up for the stand up gigs…

We’ll probably never know the truth though.

Link:
Artie’s stand up stood up by ‘Screech’

Whitehaired supervillians in kung fu movies

Your kung fu is weak, old man!

Although most Western movie watchers will instantly recognise the above picture as being “Pai Mei” from the movie “Kill Bill”; the whitehaired Mei was actually a good guy in this movie and is a throwback to a character seen littered throughout kung fu movies, but always as the villain.

But the question is — why?

Pai Mei” is a character closely derived from a real person called Bak Mei. I won’t go into too much detail about Bak Mei as Wikipedia already discusses the relationship between the Pai Mei chracter and Bak Mei better than I ever could.

The character of Pai Mei is seen in different guises, but the most famous movies are “Executioners From Shaolin” and “Fist of the White Lotus”; although Pai Mei is not the only white haired supervillain. Carter Wong was excellent as “Chi Kung” in the cult movie “Born Invincible” (see Born Invincible clip on youtube)

Indeed, I remember a load of Shaw Brothers and other kung fu movie where there would always be a white haired supervillain stroking his beard whilst taunting his enemy with words such as “Your kung fu is weak, old man”, etc.

The white hair represents a cut above everything else. Essentially, the more white hair, the harder you are… but, as in the movie “Born Invincible” conceeds; a white haired supervillian isn’t totally invunerable — he always has one weak spot, and no… it’s not the balls!

Related links:

Are virals really all that important?

I think virals are important are because virals are integral to the way the Internet works, you find and share funny e-mail’s, or videos, but companies too can and are using them to their advantage. Virals can be used for small companies, but it requires a keen mind, and a great idea.

Virals and the internet are interlinked; first we had the Star Wars kid, then that Mortal Kombat kid… now we have that Frosties Kid (no, despite reports, rumors and innendo – he isn’t dead). I remember that fake Ford advert with the cat (or something), and the other campaigns that weren’t as successful.

Sure, virals may not lead to sales, nor has it been proven that virals increase brand power (whatever that means); but they do increase word of mouth, and make us laugh.

Virals are important for three main reasons;

1) Viral’s (if done right) are funny, intelligent and go around the world.
2) They involve, and are a great stepping stone for budding directors, producers and film-makers.
3) They can be cheaper to make then traditional advertising.

I hope to explore more about the subject in the future.