Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Tigers and goats, oh my! 

The other thing that kept me from besmirching the internet with my witterings lately was a week's holiday (well, almost) in Barcelona. Now I have to confess that I'm not actually very good at holidays but, what do you know, this was rather good. Barcelona is a fine city - a little like Paris (well, okay, it probably isn't if you've spent a proper amount of time in either place and can make a sensible judgement but I haven't and can't so nyur) but without so much surly resentment from the locals. And by the sea which is always a good thing. And faintly smelly in places (see, it is a bit like Paris). We did a stack of touristy stuff (open top buses, a boat trip, too much Gaudi architecture, a bunch of museums) and a bit of sitting about not doing much at all (which I'm good at and enjoy, hurrah!) in parks and on the (admittedly rather shabby) beach. And it was mostly very hot but our knotted handkerchiefs were sun protection factor 3000 and we survived.

Something else we did was discover (I won't go into the details of how, it's not especially interesting) a couple of ancient but fascinating board games. These were Bashni (or possibly Bashne) which is a kind of mad Russian variant of draughts and Bagha Chal, a game from Nepal in which tigers play against goats (the tigers try to eat the goats the goats try not to get eaten). Marvellous. Bashni took a while to understand as we had to guess at some of the finer points of the rules due to a lack of detail in the instructions we had. Having looked for some info online yesterday though it seems we got it about right in the end. The great (or terrible - it probably depends upon your general approach to life) thing about it is that, due to a rule about having to take an opponents counter if you can, you can set off terrifically complex chain reactions of moves the result of which is almost impossible to calculate. So after a few minutes of brain-mangling consideration ("if I move there, you have to take there and there and then I take there, then you have to...") you just have to make the move anyway on the basis that's actually the only way you'll ever know if it's a good one or not. It might lose you the game but it'll certainly be interesting.

Sadly when I do the same thing in chess it always ends badly.

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