Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Chessmen Roasting on an Open Fire

Ah the holidays. That lovely time when visions of meeples dance in our heads. I took a break between fulfilling holiday game orders (Great Honk! We're running out of almost everything!) to play a few games last night. And last night's game night was a great one. We had a large turnout, a few new comers, a lot of old-timers and a pile of good games to play.

First up for me was Martin Wallace's brand new game: Tempus. This is basically an ultra-light civilization game. It's played over exactly ten turns, each of which ostensibly represents an epoch in human development. Turns are divided into a number of actions where players expand, explore, fight, and have ideas which contribute towards the progress of civilization. Unlike most civilization style games, Tempus is heavily abstracted. To call this a true civilization game is kind of stretching it because, while it does have a civilization theme and it does include some form of all of the elements I mentioned above, the game is so abstracted that the theme definitely takes a back seat to the game play. For instance, advancement through the various eras is really more of a turn counting mechanism than a traditional technology progression as found in most civilization style games. The benefit of all of this heavy abstraction is that it creates a very elegant game that's playable in well under two hours. I'll post a proper review soon but it the quick summary is that it's an excellent game with just a hint of civilization style flavor which I'd be happy to play just about any time.

Next I played a game of Tichu. It wouldn’t be game night without one of those. Adam and I won. 'Nuff said 'bout that.

Next up, Kai (our resident German) finally got a chance to teach Adam, Jason and me how to play his favorite card game Doppelkopf. Doppelkopf is a variant of Sheepshead which is wildly popular in Germany. It's played with a double deck of standard bridge cards but you only use the 9's and higher so you end up with a pack of 48 cards. Adam has played Sheepshead many times so he didn't seem to have any trouble picking it up. Jason and I had a bit of a harder time of it. The difficulty is that Doppelkopf, like Sheepshead, uses an unorthodox ranking and a relatively complex trump set. There are also several special rules and exceptions which come into play under various circumstances. Having never played Sheepshead, I was quite lost at first. After a few hands I began to get a little bit of a feel for it but my mind began to shut down from the overload and I wanted a bit of time to internalize it before playing again. This morning I looked up the rules on line for a refresher and I made a simple quick reference card. I think that's helped me to internalize the rules a little better. It's clearly a very good game and I'm sure that once the game "clicks" for me I'll really come to enjoy it. Hopefully we'll be able to play it again next week. I'm sure I'll feel more comfortable with the game then.

Next I was eager to play something back within my comfort zone. The five of us who were still around by the time our Doppelkopf game broke up decided that would be a good choice. I'm always up for this elegant trick taking game but I'm afraid that this time the cards deserted me and I came in dead last. I had a wonderful time losing though.

Other games played last night included Loopin' Louie, Rumis, Goa, Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix and Shear Panic. And I'm pretty sure there were others.


At 3:34 PM, December 13, 2006, Blogger Jon said...

Sounds like Doppelkopf uses a standard pinochle deck.

At 4:48 PM, December 13, 2006, Blogger Steve said...

Yep. Double deck 9 through Ace.


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