Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Valentine's Day Game Night

Although yesterday was Valentine's Day we went ahead and had game night anyway. Neither sleet nor snow nor... yeah, whatever. As expected turnout wasn't as high as it normally would be but we still had enough to get a couple of games going at once.

Our gathering game was Stefan Dorra's excellent filler: For Sale. This is a card game themed around buying and selling real estate. There are two decks of cards. The first deck contains thirty pieces of property ranging from a cardboard box in an alley to a shiny space station. The properties are numbered one to thirty and in the first round they're auctioned off so that all players get an even number of them. Then the second deck comes out. This deck has thirty checks with values ranging from void, to $15,000. These are auctioned off where players use the property cards they acquired from the first deck to determine who gets the best checks from the second. It's a fun and fast filler that I'm always happy to play.

Then we broke into two groups. The first group (Mike K., Wade, Jose and Mike M.) played Railroad Tycoon. I'm becoming more and more impressed with this game. Eagle Games and Martin Wallace did a fantastic job of taking Martin Wallace's classic game system for Age of Steam and making it a little more accessible to the casual gamer. It's still a long game and it's still a relatively challenging game to play well but it's more forgiving than Age of Steam and it plays very well. For casual players I'd have to say that this is the better game. And the pieces are to die for!

The second group (Oren, Birch and I) played Byzantium. As fate would have it, this is another Martin Walace game where players are trying to play both sides of the Byzantine conflict with the Arabs. Players control one army in each camp and try and control the most cities. Although this game has only three turns, each turn is filled with many player actions and the game is rather long (we ended ours a little after the Railroad Tycoon group ended theirs). I thought I was doing well after the first turn but by the end of the second I was clearly well behind the others. I made a desperate run at taking Constantinople but the other players were far enough ahead of me on the Arab scoring track that I really had no chance of pulling it off. My run at Constantinople, coupled with a couple of unlucky die rolls by Oren gave Birch the victory by a nose. The strategy in this game continues to elude me but I do enjoy it quite a bit and I'm eager to give it another go.

Next Birch and I played a game of Reiner Knizia's Battle Line. This is a card game that's not entirely unlike one of his other games: Lost Cities. As in that game, players hold a hand of numbered cards and on each turn they play one into a column and draw one to take its place. Players try to build sets of three cards that are ranked higher than the cards on their opponent's side. Win three adjacent columns or five of the nine columns and you win the game. I've played this game several times now over the last few days and I really like it. I'm not sure if I like it more than Lost Cities but I like it just as much.

While Birch and I played Battle Line, the others played Bluff. I really need to get my own copy of this game. It goes over well with every person I've ever played it with. It's simple, light, and random with just enough strategy to keep it interesting. A perfect push your luck game.


At 9:34 AM, February 15, 2006, Anonymous michael k said...

I've played a few games of the original Schotten-Totten rules (which you can play with a Battle Line deck using the 1-9 cards and none of the tactics cards, and six cards in your hand), and I like it a lot too -- the choices are just as hard, but different. A little less uncertainty, I guess, but at the same time less flexibility of movement. I don't know which is better but it's great that you can play both with the same deck (although I used a Sticheln deck to play mine, since I don't actually own Battle Line).

As for Bluff, man is that a hard game to find! I eventually gave up on finding the 1993 Richard Borg version which is what we play on Tuesdays and ended up grabbing a set of the 1987 Milton Bradley Liar's Dice, which is 100% functionally equivalent though the cups aren't nearly as nice. You can still find this going on eBay or BGG marketplace for a decent price (mine was $9 + shipping).

Beware the current edition of Liar's Dice, which only supports four players.

At 4:53 PM, February 15, 2006, Blogger Doreen said...

I can't believe you didn't go home to your lovely wife on Valentine's Day. Hope you make it up to her :)

At 5:23 PM, February 15, 2006, Blogger Steve said...

Yeah, I've given up looking for my own copy of Bluff too. I'm in the process of making my own copy. There's a very nice PDF of a Liar's Dice board up on the Geek which I've printed, mounted and laminated. Dice are on order. Now all I need is some nice cups (although the styrofoam cups in the cafeteria will work). When I'm done I'll actually have enough dice for 7 players!

And as for seeing my wife on Valentine's Day, what a strange concept! Actually, I did go home earlier than usual from Game Night to be with her. But since we're both fighting some sort of sickness, I can't say that anyone was really expecting much in the way of romance. :)


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