Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sun Sand Kites and Games

This Tuesday I wasn't able to attend my regular gaming group. That's because my parents invited my family to join them for a short vacation in Long Beach, Washington.

Long Beach is located on the south Washington coast just north of the mouth of the Columbia River (which also happens to be the Oregon border). Long Beach is the self-proclaimed "longest beach in the world", a claim which may or may not be true depending upon how you define it but either way I think I can safely say that it's one heck of a long beach. It also happens to be just about the best place on the planet to fly kites. Each year it hosts the annual Washington State International Kite Festival which is the biggest event of its kind that I'm aware of.

I'm a kite flier. I've been into flying kites since I was a kid and about ten years ago I rediscovered the hobby during a family vacation that took us to Long Beach. Since then I've filled my kite bags with one line, two line, and four line kites of various shapes and sizes. The clean steady winds of Long Beach are always a joy for me and this visit was no different. I had a wonderful time getting sunburned while I flew my kites and now that my kids are old enough to fly as well we often had four or five kites up at once. Good winds. Good times.

But equally as enjoyable for me were the games that we managed to play while we were there. Whenever the sun wasn't shining there was always a game at hand. Here is a brief description of some of the games we played.

One of the first games I brought out is a children's game: Gulo Gulo. I'd always heard this was a great kid's game but I'd never had the opportunity to play it before. It didn't disappoint. We played it with our younger kids several times during our stay. Gulo Gulo is a fun little dexterity game where you try and steal colored wooden eggs from a wooden "nest" (bowl). If you're too clumsy, you'll dislodge a wooden "alarm" that looks a little bit like a long swizzle stick stuck in the bowl of eggs. It's simple and it plays quickly. My kids loved it and I enjoyed it as well. I highly recommend it.

I had played El Grande several times before but this was the first time that I'd played the new Decennial Edition that Rio Grande Games has just released. This version contains the original games and all of the expansions in a single box. Unfortunately, it also contains an incredible amount of typos. I was rather disappointed to find so many silly little typographical errors, errors which really should have been caught during production. Still, despite all of that, it remains a classic game and one that every gamer ought to own. It's the quintessential area control game. I played a couple of games with my older sons and my parents. Everyone enjoyed the experience and both games were quite close. Great stuff.

One of the games that I was surprised to be able to get to the table was Caylus. It's one of my favorite games but it's very much a gamer's game and I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to convince anyone to play it with me. But Tuesday morning was overcast and cold so I was able to convince my father and two of my sons to play it with me. We had a great game and my father (who is a pretty smart cookie) did quite well.

I wasn't surprised at all to be able to get No Thanks! to the table. I brought it to breakfast with us one day and we played it in the restaurant while we were waiting for our food. It's such a short game and it fits in such a small box that you can play it just about anywhere. It's the perfect time killer.

We also managed to get in several games of Pink Godzilla Dev Kit. I'm still impressed by Christopher's little card game. It's played well every time I've played it. The theme was a little strange to my parents and of course they didn't get any of the jokes but they seemed to enjoy it anyway.

Another game that was new to me was Aton, this is a two player game by Thorsten Gimmler, who also created No Thanks! and Odin's Ravens. It's an area control game where play is strongly gated by card draw. On each turn both players draw four cards and then position them face down in front of them. The way the cards are played determines play order, how many pieces can be removed or added, and which of four areas the pieces can be removed from or added to. It's a little luck heavy but there are enough ways to win that the luck can be mitigated by clever play. I quite enjoyed it and I look forward to playing it many more times.

As you can guess, the only bad part about our vacation was having to come home at the end of it.


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