How I came to love Go

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned it on the blog, but I’m a Go player. It’s a game I’ve come to appreciate more with time, and easily one of the greatest games developed by man.

Now, you might think that since Go is from Asia, and I spent years living in Asia, including Japan, I might have picked the game up and learned how to play there. This, oddly enough, is not true. I actually learned how to play Go here in Canada after I’d finally settled here, and now look back with regret on not being able to play while I was over there since I’m sure finding a Go salon wouldn’t have been all that hard.

In a weird bit of irony, when I was twenty or so I bought a Go set at a game store that was having a clearance sale. I was in my “Japanese stuff is cool!!!” phase at the time, and since it was something I associated with Japan and it was cheap I bought it. I took it home, Shanghaied my buddy Ron to play with me, and we spent a Saturday afternoon trying to play it using the horribly written rules booklet that came with it. Unable to figure it out, I stuck it in storage  where it lay (like Buck Rogers or Eric Cartman, cue music…) for 18 years. A little over a year and a half ago I found it, decided I wanted to take another shot at it, grabbed my friend Mad Unkie G, and decided to play.  However, I did a little online search for rules and came across this site, which had an amazing online interactive tutorial on how to play.  Using those rules, G and I had a blast, and were both hooked.

We began to play every week or two, and both of us started to teach other people how to play. (The very true saying about Go is “Five minutes to learn, a lifetime to master.”) I bought a book on the subject and I studied it for a while, played against the computer, and we pretty serious about it. I thought I was doing pretty well at it, until I played my Korean boss who turned out to be a ranked player of the game. It wasn’t a game, it was him teaching me how to play, but the difference in levels was so disheartening I actually stopped playing for a while. Eventually it came down to the occasional game with G when we managed to make our schedules work (I’ve had a super-busy year) and me playing against a computer from time to time. (Unable to get past beginner level.)

Then, a month or so ago I happened to notice a poster at school for a Fanshawe College Go Club. Curious, I sought them out, and to no surprise they turned out to be a bunch of computer science students. (Go naturally appeals to logical thinkers.)  But, joining in and playing them rekindled both my love and appreciation for the game, especially in a social setting, and I’ve gotten back into it with a passion. I got another book on the game, and began to study it in earnest (the desire to kick Go butt strong in this one…) and I even started to play online against real people. I also started to read Hikaru no Go (again, I read the first couple volumes a year ago when I first got interested in the game) and suddenly it makes perfect sense to me and I can even understand what they’re talking about and appreciate what’s going on.

Will my new found love of Go last the test of time? I don’t know, but I’ll find out and have a lot of fun doing it! If anyone hasn’t had the chance to try playing Go, check out the link to the online tutorial site above and give it a go, you might just find a new love like I did!

Sage Advice for the D&D Player

As this week’s release of John Rogers and Andrea DeVitos’s excellent Dungeons & Dragons #2 proves, D&D and comic books go together like… well, like escapist fantasies set in worlds with super-powerful characters that are built on tenuous, ever-changing rules. And like comics, the D&D rules invite all sorts of questions to figure out just how the hell they’re supposed to work.

For over thirty years, that was the domain of Dragon Magazine and their “Sage Advice” column, where players could write in with problems to get semi-official answers. Unfortunately for fans of esoteric, incredibly specific knowledge everywhere, the column is no more (having since been replaced by, you know, the Internet), but my pal Mike Sterling recently sent me a link to a searchable archive of 680 “Sage Advice” questions and answers culled from over a hundred issues of Dragon.

Most of them are simple rules questions and people trying to figure out what exactly the difference is between the glaive, guisarme, guisarme-glaive and guisarme-volge (answer: not much), but there are some truly amazing glimpses of nerd minds at work in there. And luckily for you, you don’t have to spend the hours going through all of them, because I’ve found the best and dropped them onto some snazzy parchment for your reading pleasure! So strap on your elven chain, make your save vs. rules lawyering, and enjoy The 11 Strangest D&D Questions Ever Asked!