Wednesday, March 29, 2006

No Game Night Writeup

I'm sad to report that while others were having fun playing games, I had a conflicting appointment that kept me away from game night this week.

I'll try and post something more meaningful in a bit but for now I only have one thing to say:

Caylus is finally in stock! Huzzah! Go buy a copy before we run out!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

This Week's Games

Yesterday was Tuesday and you all know what that means. It's time for me to write another short list of games that we played last night.

Our opener was For Sale by Stefan Dorra. We've played this several times recently so I'll refrain from putting up a picture and a description. This is still a great opener and I'm still ready to play it just about any time.

I brought a couple of new games tonight and one of them was a lovely little game called Hey! That's My Fish! This is a really clever little game where players try to collect tiles (ice floes) from an ever shrinking board. The rules are supremely simple. On your turn you move a penguin as far as you want in any straight line, leaving him on a tile. He can't cross empty spaces and he can't pass other penguins. The tile he leaves is removed from the board. It's yours. The number of fish on the tile is the tile's point value. As the board shrinks penguins will become isolated. Once no more penguins can move, the game is over and you count your points. The whole thing takes perhaps ten minutes to play. We played two four player games in a row. I got the first win (it helps having been the only one to have played before) and then Mike K. creamed us for the second game. (Adam and Mike M. were the other two players.)

Next we played the other new game I brought: Stefan Dorra's Intrigue. This is a brutal, ugly, back-stabbing pure negotiation game. (In case it's not obvious, that's a good thing.) Each player has eight scholars in four categories (science, art, religion, and medicine). Each player also has a palace that's willing to pay salaries for four scholars (one of each type). On your turn you collect income for those of your scholars that are placed in other palaces, then you accept (or reject) applicants for the positions at your palace, then you send two of your scholars out into the world and try to place them in positions at the other players' palaces. The conflict arises because there are twice as many scholars in the world as there are available positions. That means that some scholars are going to have to be turned away. Whenever a player tries to place his scholar he negotiates with the palace owner. They dicker back and forth on the terms (which can be just about anything) and the process culminates with a bribe. Here's where things get nasty. Once the player has received his bribe the negotiations are over and he's free to do anything he wants. "Oh, I'm sorry. Did I say I'd put that scholar in the lucrative $10,000 salary position? I've changed my mind. He's going in to the $1,000 position instead." Of course, such nastiness is sure to have its repercussions when it's that player's turn to place a scholar or two. Mike M. won our game but just barely. I was entirely too dishonest for my own good and came in last. It was an experiment (none of us had played before) and next time I'll know better.

I rounded out my evening with several games of my all-time favorite card game: Tichu. This game ROCKS. We've got a group that regularly plays it over lunch and I have yet to get tired of the game. It's a partnership game and Adam, Mike M., Oren and I played three games in succession, changing partners each time. Mike & I won the first game, then I partnered with Oren and we lost. Finally I partnered with Adam and ... we lost. If you haven't been keeping track, that makes Mike the big winner.

We had a newcomer join us. Forrest sometimes plays with the Thursday night group that meets in the same cafeteria but today he popped in and played several games with the others who were in attendance. Hopefully he'll be back next week.

Games played by others included Up Front, Il Principe, and Condottiere.

Hope you can join us next time!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Review: Nertz

The other day I was excited to see that a small package had arrived in the mail. Had someone sent me a complimentary copy of another game to review? Oh goody!

I eagerly opened the package and inside I found Nertz, a "new" card game by a company of the same name out of Indian Springs, Ohio.

I'm always eager to see a new card game but as I leafed through the garish ad copy that accompanied the game my interest began to wane. It didn't take long for me to realize that this is really just a repackaged version of an old public domain card game. Well, OK. That's acceptable I suppose. If it's a good game and it's packaged well then it's no big deal. The documentation even mentioned that this was based on a public domain game so I can't accuse them of trying to put one over on their customers. Let's open up the tuck box and see what's inside.

Here is where the disappointment really set in. Inside the box were two decks of cards. The documentation indicated that there were supposed to be a red deck and a blue deck but someone messed up in quality control and both of my decks are identical (blue). Each deck is really nothing more than a standard deck of cards. The standard suits have been replaced with colors (white, yellow, red and blue) and instead of face cards the cards are all just numbered one to thirteen but when all is said and done it's just a standard deck of cards with a very ugly and rather dysfunctional graphic design. That would be acceptable if the quality weren't abysmal. The cards are printed on uncoated, thin cardstock. The cards had even become somewhat stuck together during manufacturing so when I first flexed the deck I could hear that uncomfortable sound of stuck cards being forced apart. I can't imagine that these cards would ever stand up to significant repeated use.

As for the game itself, unfortunately it's really nothing special. Nertz (also called Pounce) is a relatively simple and chaotic game that is kind of like a competitive version of the old Klondike Solitaire. Players typically play in two teams of two (although it can be played two player and in other combinations). Each team simultaneously plays to four private draw piles in front of them in solitaire fashion (dark cards on light cards in descending rank) and tries to empty the draw piles into eight common piles in the center of the table (this time in ascending rank and matched suit). Each team has a "nertz" deck of thirteen face up cards which they try and empty. The first team to empty their "nertz" deck wins the round and scores are tallied. Rounds continue until one team arrives at a predetermined score.

It's not a bad game per say and there are certainly a lot of people who have enjoyed this game over the years. But at the same time, it's certainly not a very good game either. It's certainly not worth wasting your money on.

If you're really interested in playing the game, go get yourself a couple of good bridge decks (I'm sure you have a few lying around), look up the rules on line and give it a try. Don't waste your money on these crappy cards.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Game Night Writeup

We had a decent turnout tonight, most of the regulars were there, but Birch was home recovering from (I think it was) dental surgery. Hopefully he's feeling better soon. Also, it's been a while since we've seen the two new Michaels! Hopefully they'll decide to come to game night again.

The gathering game tonight was For Sale. I can't remember who all was involved but I seem to remember coming in second. I think Oren was first.

Tonight's first big game for me was Ys, which I played with Mike K., and Wade. This is a really elegant bidding game where players place bids in different areas on the board to achieve different goals. Half of the bids are blind which enables some really fun bluffing and keeps the tension high. It's an extremely balanced game and it worked well with three players (although it's better with four). Mike ran away with the win and I came in with a strong second.

Next we got a game of No Thanks (AKA Geschenkt) going. Actually, we played it twice. I believe that I won both times! That's quite unusual for me. Either I'm getting better or... Who am I kidding? It was all luck. No Thanks is a great filler. It can be taught in all of about thirty seconds and played in around five minutes and it goes over well with just about everybody.

My last game of the evening was Il Principe, played with Christopher, Ben, Jose and Wade. This game is really growing on me. I enjoyed it the first two times I played but this time it really impressed me with how much is really going on here. Our game ended up EXTREMELY close. I came in fourth but the top four scores were all within two victory points of one another. Ben and Wade tied for the top score, with Ben taking the win via tie breaker. Christopher was right behind them followed closely by me.

I can't remember all the other games that were played but I know that Elasund was one of them. I had to cut out at about 9 to get some work done and the others were trying to decide what else to play as I was leaving.

If you're anywhere near Redmond, WA you should come join us next week!

New goodies coming from Fantasy Flight Games

Check out the latest post on the FFG Rants page. There are a LOT of good things coming from Fantasy Flight this year. I've been extremely impressed with the stuff these guys have been producing lately and it just seems to keep getting better.

There's a lot of stuff to get excited about here but I'm particularly interested to see what the new improved Cave Troll is going to be like. I really digged Tom Jolly's little area control game masquerading as a dungeon crawler back in its last release but the components were a little on the ho-hum side. A makeover sounds compelling and it just might convince me to buy another copy! Or at least try to talk one of my friends into buying a copy so I can take a good look at it.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Another Week, Another Game Night

Last night was game night and I played only one half of a game the entire night. That's right, only one half!

I was interested in trying out the new Fantasy Flight release of Britannia. I'd heard good things and reading through the rules peaked my interest. So Oren, Daryl and Birch joined me for a four player game. This game can be played with three or five players but it really is intended for exactly four players so that's how we played it. Going through the rules took quite a bit of time. They aren't all that difficult but there are enough special cases and exceptions that it can take a while. This is definitely a good game to play with someone who has already played it once. The next time I play it we'll be able to get started MUCH faster. As it was, it took us about an hour to get through the rules, get everything set up and start playing. The first few turns were slow and by about ten we had gone through exactly half of the sixteen turns in the game. The later turns went quite a bit faster than the earlier ones but that's still about three hours to go through half the game (if you discount the hour spent going over the rules). Daryl wasn't feeling well and it was getting late so we decided to quit for the night.

So what did I think? Well I liked it! But it is very long. I especially like the subject matter: British history spanning roughly ten centuries from about 50AD to 1050AD (give or take a few decades). This would work as an educational game because it does a good job of giving a very high level sense of what happened during that period of British history. The game encourages players to stick to the real time line. I'll try and find time to play it all the way through soon. I imagine that I could potentially play it all the way through in under five hours now that I know what's going on.

Other games played last night:

and Star Fleet Battles.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Game Night

We had a decent turn out last night. Christopher's back from vacation and most of the regulars showed up. And we had a special guest: Christopher's 18 month old son Raja. Cute kid. He looks a lot like his dad and uncle (can't say about mom since we've never met). He was very well behaved.

As an opener we played a full seven-player game of Liar's Dice with my new homemade set. I've talked about that enough lately so I'll move on.

Other games I played tonight included Elasund and Saint Petersburg. I came in a close second in Elasund but I did extremely poorly in Saint Petersburg. I could give the excuse that I haven't played it in a while so I'm pretty rusty but besides that I just don't really have a good feel for when to stop trying to maximize income and start going for points (and last night I didn't even do very well at either anyway). I understand the basic strategies all right, it's just that I'm not very good at putting them into practice. Probably because I'm too lazy to think too much about the math involved. Perhaps if I played it more often I'd have done better. Still, it's a very good game and I enjoyed coming in dead last.

While Elasund was being played, there was also a full game of Ark going on. I've written a lot about that recently too so I'll skip that tonight.

Several of the Seattle crowd played Ben's copy of Star Fleet Battle Force. I've never played it before but it looked like an interesting card game. It's a Star Trek themed game where players battle with cards that simulate different ships, weapons, shields, and so on. I can't really comment beyond that since I didn't play. I liked the photon-torpedo shaped counters.