Radio Active #49: Monster Week, Catan, Dire Cafe, Geek Dad Blog

Radio Active PodcastThoughts about Nuketown’s upcoming Monster Week extravaganza leads off Episode #49 of Nuketown Radio Active as I discuss about the movies I want to review and ask listeners for suggestions. With the monsters out of the way, I talk about my progress on the geek fitness front and my experiences registering for GenCon 2007.

In Netheads, I take a look at the upcoming SimCity game for Nintendo DS, suggest folks check out the Dire Cafe social networking site, ramble on about Pirate solitare, and discover a Geek Dad Blog at Finally, this week’s review is the board game Catan for Xbox 360, a computerized version of the classic German board game Settlers of Catan.

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Show Notes

  • Nuketown News
    • In less scary news, my geek fitness project is working out well. I’m down to 196 lbs., from a high of 224 lbs. That’s 28 lbs, which just amazes me. Even better, my cholesteral dropped nearly 50 points as a result of all this!
    • GenCon registration was bumpy, but I got most of what I was looking for. two sessions of D&D, two of Savage Worlds (in two different genres), one session of Godlike, one session of Star Wars and one of Spycraft 2.0. My schedule’s available online at
    • Home Improvement: This time around, we’re re-doing the hardwood floors on the first floor of the house.
    • Monster Week: I’m planning a summer “Monster Week” film festival (or at least, film review festival) at Nuketown and want your feedback on what to review.
    • Geek Fitness
    • GenCon Registration & Schedule
  • Promo: The Game Masters Show
  • Netheads
    • Simulated city construction and destruction on the Nintendo DS, based on the SimCity 3000 engine.
    • Includes a series of minigames that pop up every ten minutes that you play, and the ability to trade landmarks with other DS owners. No internet trading though.
    • Being released this summer by Electronic Arts.
    • a social networking site for escapist geeks. If you’re a casual fan of movies, scifi, fantasy, horror, comics, or tabletop rpgs you’re in the right place.
    • We’ve got all these little WizKids pirate ships … but never play with them. But what about a solo game?
    • The name says it all: Wired’s launched a blog dedicated to geek dads. Recent topics include Carcassone, Darth Vader as a geek dad, iPods for little kids.
    • SimCity DS
    • Dire Cafe
    • Pirate Solitaire at Uncle Bear:
    • Geek Dad Blog at
  • Promo: GenCon 2007
  • Game Review: Catan
    • Developer: Big Huge Games
    • Cost: 800 points (about $10)
    • Single player offline; up to 4 players online
    • For Xbox 360
    • If you know Settlers of Catan, then you know this game, which is an exceedingly faithful recreation of the board game.
    • If you don’t, Settlers involves three to four players competing to colonize an island. It features a randomly generated hex-based board, with each hex representing a terrain type that generates a resource.
    • The game begins with each player in control of two villages placed at the intersections of these hexes.
    • Each hex is assigned a number from 2 to 12 (excluding 7); if that number is rolled on two six sided dice, the hex produces a resource for anyone who’s built a village on it.
    • On a role of a 7, the “robber” moves — a bandit who settles on a hex and prevents it from producing resources … and lets you steal a resource from someone else. It also forces anyone with more than seven cards to discard half their hand.
    • The goal is to build additional villages and cities, each of which is worth a certain number of victory points. The first person to 10 points wins the game.
    • You can spend resources to buy development cards as well, which create random effects, such as allowing you to monopolize other people’s resources, build two roads instantly, or deploy soldiers to chase off the robber.
    • You can also get points by building the longest road, assembling the biggest army or buying “victory point” development cards.
    • The game plays exactly like the board game, which is more than a little amazing.
    • Computer players are based on different historical figures, and each has its own objectives such as building development cards or expanding their empire.
    • There are three difficulty settings — easy, normal and hard — and the hardest setting is very hard — I only win about 1 out of every 3 games.
    • The difficulty is driven largely by the fact that after getting a certain number of victory points, the AI simply stops trading with you, even if it does trade with other players. It can be convinced to trade if you trade enough cards for a resource (more or less like a real game) but it’s usually cheaper to trade through a port instead.
    • The visuals are great — they look just like the real game. The standard board is my favorite; there’s also a “living island” version that looks like the 3D Settlers of Catan sold as a collectors edition a few years ago, but it adds nothing to the game — there are no special effects or animations that happen on any of the lands when resources are produced, and watching the robber do his little dance gets old after a while.
    • Of course, there’s none of the interpersonal wrangling, negotiation and bidding that makes real Catan so much fun, but its one of the most successful (if not the most successful) computer implementations of a board game I’ve seen.
    • I’m looking forward to their Carcassone game, which should be out sometime soon.
    • Definitely worth getting if you have a 360 and love board games.
    • Details
    • Overview
    • Review
  • Promo: Geek Acres dot Info
  • Outro
    • Kids and games. Episode 50? Book review Learning the World. Game review of The Book of Nine Swords martial supplement for D&D. Music by George Hrab.
    • Upcoming
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