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Archive for September, 2018

Spanish Cheat Sheet

After years studying Spanish, I finally arrogantly proclaimed that I could fit everything one would need to know in order to speak the language onto a single piece of paper. Well… I was close.

Here is my Spanish Cheat Sheet, in all its barely-four-page glory.

You see, Romance languages like Spanish use a special convention to conjugate verbs that makes them (technically speaking, anyway) extremely simple to learn. Note that I did not say “easy” – only that it’s simple. You still have to memorize a bunch of stuff and practice using it until you become proficient, just like with any language.

But if you know which bits to memorize first (i.e., how to conjugate verbs), you can leap way ahead in your acquisition of the language, rather than slowly floundering from one random word to the next (reading a dictionary), or from one arbitrary phrase to another (learning from immersion).

In all languages, a verb is a word that describes an action – something that is done, or happens, or occurs. To say anything meaningful, one usually needs a verb to serve as the core of their thought, and then various modifications to that verb can be thrown in to help get specific.

For example, in the above sentence, the single verb which served as the core of that thought was “need.” The structure of English demands to know who or what is doing the needing, and in this case that was “one,” or somebody, a hypothetical person. That’s it as far as the minimum for sensical English is concerned, but I went ahead and added in a lot of other detail anyway, such as “usually,” which put a distinct spin on just what sort of “need” that “one” had, making the whole thing more precise.

There’s a lot more going on under the hood there, but for the purposes of learning Spanish, I need only go on to say that what in English requires two separate words to get across (one + needs), Spanish can do with just one: the supremely elegant and efficient necesita.

In Spanish, the very word of the verb itself is altered slightly in order to form different aspects of the same action. This is called conjugation. “I need” is necesito. “You need” is necesitas. “We all need” is necesitamos.

And on and on it goes, so that a fully conjugated Spanish verb will tell us – in a single, jam-packed word – what the action is that’s taking place, who or what is performing it, even when it took place, is taking place, or will take place, and sometimes also to whom it’s being done!

The four-word English sentence “He will buy it” can be translated into a single word of Spanish: comprarála. That’s a lot of efficiency. And it’s the elucidation of exactly that efficiency which is the point of my cheat sheet, in order to facilitate the most painless experience possible for your progression into Spanish.

And on top of that, all Spanish spellings have a 1-to-1 ratio with the pronunciations, so it’s even super easy to read and write it, unlike most other languages.

Of course, what my cheat sheet is missing is sheer vocabulary – all the words for things you need to know in order to say specific stuff. But, unlike conjugations, there is no simple way to learn all that (aside from reading a dictionary, which can be kind of fun), so that part of language acquisition will have to come with time.

As you’ll see, the verbal conjugation endings are bit dry to memorize by rote, but luckily there aren’t very many of them, at least not as far as basic fluency is concerned. And the payoff is enormous.

Once you get the hang of them, you will have forged for yourself a skeleton key to the entire language, and it will enable you to open infinite doors of communication.







Keyforge: a new card game by Richard Garfield

Keep your eyes on game store shelves at the end of 2018, because Keyforge – Richard Garfield’s latest work – is due for release, and it looks awesome.

I’ve long maintained that Magic: the Gathering, Richard Garfield’s first mega-hit, is the greatest game ever invented, and I have yet to encounter a product of his design that wasn’t at least great, if not quite as perfect as Magic. And a big part of why Keyforge looks so fun is because it looks a lot like Magic, but with a little Vampire (another Garfield game) thrown in.

The main gimmick is that there is no deckbuilding – a striking departure from an entire genre of gaming (i.e. the Collectible Trading Card Game) which Garfield himself could rightfully be called the father of.

Instead, decks come as purchased, ready to play and not to be altered, and somehow Dr. Garfield (PhD-in-Recombinatorial-Mathematics-Smarty-Pants-Show-Off-Brainy-McBrainerson) has found a way to ensure a variety of over 104 quadrillion different decks, so each is unique.

Yes, you read that right: 104,000,000,000,000,000. Decks.

Apparently a “secret… sophisticated set of rules and processes” is behind it. Curious…. Very curious, indeed.

In the world of Keyforge, you’ve got 7 houses (ahem – Game of Thrones) instead of the 5 colors of Magic. And in place of Magic’s mana-based economy, each deck in Keyforge is always made of 3 houses: at the start of each turn you must pick 1 of them, then you can play all the cards you want to of that house that turn (at the low-low price of not being able to play cards from other houses). Pretty elegant, Garfield, but what else ya got?

Creatures, enchantments (upgrades), artifacts, and spells (actions) exist in both Magic and Keyforge (Keyforge terms in parenthesis), and appear to operate in pretty much the exact same way. Creatures enter summoning sick (exhausted), and auras (upgrades) are destroyed when the creature they’re enchanting goes away.

A neat twist here, though, is that your creatures form a line of battle, shoulder-to-shoulder, and their position in that line is relevant. When you play a new creature, it must enter on either flank, left or right.

During combat, and unlike Magic but a bit like Vampire, creatures fight other specific enemy creatures, and the genius power/toughness scheme of Magic is combined into a single power number, with the option of an additional “armor” number, which prevents incoming damage.

This subtle change is important because of the following improvement to one of Magic’s fundamental (and rather unintuitive) rules: damage does not magically (pun intended) vanish at the end of a turn, but rather it builds up, marked on the creatures with counters, and remains there until further notice. If a creature’s damage comes to equal its power, the creature dies.

Also interestingly, Keyforge’s turn order places “untap” and “draw” as the last two things you do:

1 – Cash in victory points (not at all what they’re called, but really what they are. In the story, you’re “forging keys to unlock the Architect’s secret Vault on the mysterious planet, Crucible,” but we all know what they really mean. It’s victory points.)

2 – Choose which house to use that turn

3 – Do stuff

4 – Untap

5 – (much like Vampire) Discard any number of cards in your hand of your chosen house, then draw back up to maximum hand size.

A lot of the fun of Magic is in the deckbuilding, and some of the best, beautiful bits of Vampire are hidden beneath a few unfortunate layers of needless complexity, so I am quite eager to see what Garfield has done with Keyforge. I see similarities to both in it, and I take that as a good omen.

With any luck he has forged together (pun intended) an amalgamation of good ideas from over the years into something new and – dare I wish it?! – even better.

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    JESTER: All right...the "Artemis" formerly known as "Prince," and Lady Fallowmore!

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