Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Blunders, Un-Wins and Final-Final Scores

We had another very good turnout with many people and many games.

When I arrived, several people were just starting Antike, a very nice civilization-light style game that employs a cool "roundel" mechanism that governs your choices in a very clever way while still allowing you quite a bit of freedom with respect to what you can do. I've only ever played it once and that game was aborted when we had to break for dinner. I hope to play it again soon.

Another crowd was busy playing Royal Turf. This game was recently re-printed with some slight changes as Winner's Circle. It's a very nice little Knizia game with a horse racing theme. It's not my favorite game by any means, but it's a good one to bring out every once in a while.

I was lucky enough to get in on a five player game of Caylus. Man, I can't stress enough how much I love this game. It hits so many sweet spots for me. I find it so incredibly elegant and I can't imagine ever turning down a game. It doesn't hurt that I have a pretty good win/loss record. Going in to the next to last turn I had the win all sewn up. Due to a quirk in the order that the tiles were built, there was no Architect on the board so there was no way for players to upgrade residences to prestige buildings. Topping that off, I had foreseen this possibility and I was the only one who had advanced far enough down the builder track to be able to use favor to convert a residence. In the second to last turn I acquired enough stone and gold to build the Cathedral (the big 25-point prestige building). All I needed was one more favor and the win would be mine by a comfortable margin. Then disaster struck. First, the provost was moved back just far enough to prevent me from getting just one purple cube (which would have allowed me to use the joust on the final turn to get a favor). That wasn't a problem. If I could just get into the castle and build two batches that would be enough for the favor I needed. But I failed to pay close enough attention to the other players and in the final turn I allowed two players to go before me in the castle and between the two of them they were able to finish the keep and prevent me from being able to build in the castle. I have no one but myself to blame. I had the win in the bag and I got sloppy at the end and threw the game away. Serves me right. Great game though!

Next up I was involved in a five player game of . This is probably my all-time favorite true trick taking game (Tichu is really more of a climbing game than a trick-taking game) and five players is definitely the sweet spot for this game. Mü has a wonderful bidding mechanism which is used to select two trumps and a weak partnership for each hand. Players bid by laying cards face up in front of them. The number of cards bid (and to some extent their rank) determines who wins the bid. Whoever comes in second in the bidding becomes the "vice" and calls a trump. Whoever comes in first becomes the "chief" and calls a higher trump and chooses a partner for the hand. Points are scored individually but bonuses are awarded to partnerships depending on whether or not the winning bid is made. It's only a little bit complicated and it's well worth the effort to learn it. I consider this Doris & Frank's crowning achievement. It belongs on every card player's shelf. (Oh, and I won. That was nice too.)

Rounding out the night was my #1 favorite card game: Tichu. I've been having a bit of bad luck in this game recently so I was very happy when Curt and I earned a solid win against Kai and Adam. Unfortunately, we decided to play one more hand just for fun and, since the game was officially over, I called a very risky Tichu and failed to make it. Adam and Kai were quick to point out that this caused Curt and I to "unwin" the game and they insisted we keep playing. It was all downhill from there and while the final-final score was close, Adam and Kai pulled ahead for the second win (whatever that's supposed to mean). Goofy but fun.


At 11:26 AM, October 20, 2006, Blogger Matthew said...

Re: Winner's Circle -- what are the changes?

At 2:26 PM, October 20, 2006, Blogger Steve said...

Cosmetically, the horses are now three-dimensional and quite a bit larger. The board is larger and the colors are just a bit (albeit not much) easier to distinguish from one another.

The only change in game play is that the cards are now disconnected from the horses. Instead of having three cards in each color, requiring you to sort the cards into three different sets, all the cards are the same color. You shuffle all 21 together and randomly assign seven cards to the seven horses each round. This creates a very subtle difference in that the number distributions can be just a little bit more varied. But it isn't enough to substantially alter the game and there is an alternate rule provided that you can use to play the game with the old distribution if you really want to. Personally, I don't find it necessary.

At 10:12 AM, October 31, 2006, Blogger Phollower said...

My wife, a couple friends and I tried Caylus for the first time last night. We were a little underwhelmed by it. I'd like to try it again since I felt like I spent the first 3/4 of the game just getting a feel for it and by then it was too late to fix problems that had been made earlier. My wife however didn't care for it at all. She felt like the entire game was: get a few cubes, spend em, build a house in the castle, repeat. It didn't feel like there were multiple paths to victory or even that much to do in general. I'm withholding judgement until I can give it another try.

At 8:05 PM, October 31, 2006, Blogger Steve said...


Sorry to hear that Caylus didn't click for you after the first play. I think it's one of the best games to come out in the last year but I certainly can't speak for everybody.

Every game I've played has developed quite differently and while I tend to employ relatively similar strategies each time I play, the situations are often so vastly different and the game is so tactical in nature that I often find myself having to consider each move very carefully. I think as the people you play with begin to really learn the game you may find it a bit more varied and challenging than you at first thought. Of course I could be wrong. :)

Thanks for the feedback!

At 6:19 AM, November 01, 2006, Blogger Phollower said...

I hope that's exactly what happens, the part about people getting better at it as we play it more therefore the games develop in different ways every time. The big problem is getting it to the table often enough for people to get good at it. I knew I shouldn't buy so many games... As I said, I'm going to reserve judgement on it until we give it another try for just that reason. I had the same thing happen with El Grande and Tigris and Euphrates. I wasn't thrilled by either the first time but I like them and appreciate them more and more each time. Now they're among my favorites.


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