Thanks to NickS for pointing me to The Battle of Polytopia. It’s a turn based strategy game similar to Civilization but MUCH simpler. It’s available for free for both iOS and Android, but there are optional in game purchases if you want to get more tribes and support the author.

You can either play to get the highest score in 30 turns or to conquer every other civilization on the map. After choosing your tribe, you’ll get one person in your tiny little village and then you set off exploring the land, gathering resources to expand your city and investing in technology. Along the way you’ll probably encounter other tribes to battle and conquer.

The game walks the perfect line of complex strategy and easy to understand game mechanics. The technology tree is pretty diverse but it’s simple enough that you can easily memorize it. It’s also the same for every civilization which helps dramatically. The differences between civilizations are their starting technologies and the type of terrain that they normally start on.

A multiplayer feature was recently added so you can play against your friends. It’s fun but it takes a lot longer than playing against the computer.

If you’re at all interested in strategy games, this one is worth a look! It has totally sucked me in. My high score in points mode is 63,730 and in domination mode, I’ve gotten 3 stars with 6 of the tribes so far. Can you beat those marks? (Judging by the high score tables, lots of people can.) If you want to join me in a multiplayer game, send me a note! So far I’ve gotten Logan hooked but the more the merrier.


I’ve played around with classic gaming system emulators in the past. There was the time I bought an old Asteroids machine and stuffed a computer inside, and I also modified an original Xbox to run old Nintendo games. Classic games are still fun for me and I thought the simpler games might be a way to introduce Elijah to video games as a super rainy weekend special activity kind of thing. Or at least that was my excuse.

It’s a lot easier to get a system up and running now. Here’s a shopping list:

Things you might have already:

Now you’re ready to follow the instructions (Lifehacker has a good guide too) and get gaming!

That only took me a couple hours to put together. I wasn’t thrilled with all the cables and pieces laying around so I decided to build a nice box for it. I have done some bandsaw boxes but I don’t recall doing any nice small wooden boxes with a lid. This seemed like a good excuse. I started with some walnut scraps from the side table build.
For the top, I found part of the wood with nice grain and tried a bookmatch. That just means that you use the bandsaw to cut down the middle of the board (the thin way) and lay it open like a book. The grain ends up as (almost) a mirror image. I was really happy with how it looked though in the final product I did goof it up a bit. I think I flipped one of the boards end for end.Because I was using scraps, I couldn’t quite get a continuous grain all the way around the box, but I did pay a little attention to it and some of the corners look pretty cool. I put in some small maple splines to reinforce the corners. The box walls were thin so the splines are pretty tiny. I finished it off with a couple coats of shellac.

I’m happy with it for a first attempt. Everything fits inside so that’s a win and the grain is pretty to look at. I want to try another box soon to use what i learned. Crosscut Hardwoods is selling small pieces of curly maple and I picked up some of that to try on the next box.

Tool Sharpening

I got a set of cheap chisels and a block plane from Home Depot a few years ago. There are times when they come in super handy, but how do I sharpen them? If you search online, there are a bazillion different options and each one is a bit of an investment. I wanted something that I couldn’t screw up and was quick to use without much cleanup. I ended up buying the Work Sharp WS3000.

The basic kit comes with two glass plates and four different abrasive levels. The abrasive sheets adhere to the glass so you can pick the right one and flip it to the correct side. My chisels were in rough shape but in less than half an hour, I had flatted the backs, and established both a bevel and a micro bevel. Brilliant! I’m so excited to finally start using my hand tools more.

Fear of sharpening was a major reason why I haven’t invested in a bigger plane yet. Maybe a jack plane will find it’s way into my shop.

Safeway Monopoly

Monopoly is back at Safeway (and related grocery stores.) I know it’s a ridiculous game and the odds of winning anything are astronomically low, but for some reason I still find it fun. And last year I did win a reasonable amount of small stuff so why not go for it again.

During the “off season”, I had spent a little time futzing around with a phone application that would read playing pieces and keep track of how you were doing along your futile journey to win prizes. I even thought you could get into a group with friends and digitally pool your playing pieces for a little better chance at winning something. I’m glad I didn’t spend too much time on that because they have improved the app that comes with the game. Not only can you scan the bar codes for the second chance prizes like last year, but now you can also scan a 2D barcode on the back of the playing pieces. It figures out what all four pieces are and keeps track of your progress in the app. You still need to keep the physical playing pieces to redeem your prize, but this automates away a lot of the time consuming part.

I’ll do another post in a couple months and let you know how it turned out this year. If you aren’t playing and want to fuel this silliness, feel free to pass your tokens along to me.

Best of YouTube

I hope you got a chance to watch the Falcon Heavy test launch by SpaceX earlier this week either live or afterwards. If you didn’t, grab your popcorn and fire up this video. I watched it live at work and it was quite a thrill to watch the biggest rocket since the Saturn project lift off and then see the two boosters land simultaneously back on earth. Unfortunately the main booster didn’t land successfully back on the floating platform (not in the video), but two out of three isn’t bad. Since this was a simple test flight, Elon loaded his personal Tesla Roadster into the rocket for weight (generally companies just use heavy chunks of metal, etc) and there was a subsequent live stream of the car floating through the solar system.

I love the videos about the science behind games at the fair, but Mark Rober’s video was the first time I’d seen the same formula applied to an arcade. it taught me something about the rainbow circle game that will change my life forever.

And everyone’s favorite woodworking geek, Matthias Wandel, posted a video showing how you can use a free app on your phone or tablet to measure the RPM of your shop tools.