Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

I didn't go to game night tonight. Spook duties kept me at home instead. I hope you all are having a safe and fun Halloween and I look forward to seeing many of you next Tuesday!

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Under the Sea

Another great turnout for our Tuesday game night! We had a boatload of people show up: most of the regulars and a few not-so-regulars. It was great to see so many people there.

My first game of the evening was a nice game of Bluff (A.K.A. Liar's Dice). Six of us played a couple of quick rounds while we were waiting for more people to arrive so we could split up. Liar's Dice is a great little filler game. There's a new Pirates of the Caribbean edition that's recently been released so if you're looking for a copy, look for it at your local book store or Wall Mart-ish store.

While we were playing Bluff, several others began a game of Railroad Tycoon. Probably the best game to come out of Eagle Games before they went belly up this year, Railroad Tycoon is a reworking of the Martin Wallace classic: Age of Steam. Both are great games.

Soon we had enough people to split up into two groups. One group played Tichu and the remaining three of us played Reef Encounter. Reef Encounter is a wonderful game by Richard Breese about (of all things) coral reefs. Players compete to grow corals, guard them with shrimp and feed them to parrot fish. The game is really an abstract game with a lightly pasted on theme but the theme works well and the pieces (particularly in the newer Z-Man edition) are absolutely gorgeous. This is a wonderfully deep strategy game that requires lots of thought and has just enough luck to prevent any one strategy from guaranteeing success. I definitely recommend this one. I'm happy to report that I somehow managed to pull off the win this time.

We followed that game with a game of Carcassonne: The City. This is easily my favorite of the series. I consider it to be more polished than the other versions and there are wonderful mechanisms that encourage players to commit to long term scoring strategies while keeping the length down below most of the expansions. I especially like the way the game's focus changes as the game enters the wall building phase. In our game, Curt and I tussled back and forth for control of a monstrous residence which in the end he managed to wrestle from me. As I suspected, that proved to be the difference in the game. Whichever of us managed to secure that residence would win the game. I came in third behind Mike S. and Curt (who won). Our scores were all quite close.

My night ended with a pair of Tichu games with Kai, Oren and Mike M. The first game, Mike M. and I paired up and within a few hands we were up with a score that was something like 700 to negative 200. At that point Oren requested that we allow them to concede so we shuffled the partners around and began another game. This time I partnered with Kai and while we played reasonably well, the cards failed us and Oren and Mike won the game with more than twice our score. It didn't help that I called Large Tichu on our last hand and just barely failed to go out first. It was a desperation move which I'd try again in similar circumstances. Well played.

Meanwhile, six of the others in our group played Adam's new board game: The Order of the Stick based on the web comic of the same name. If you've ever read the web comic you may want to give this game a brief look. It's certainly not a great game but it does capture the flavor of the comic and it is very funny. It's basically a semi-cooperative dungeon crawl filled with very silly weapons, creatures and loot. Think Munchkin only funnier and slightly better (which isn't saying much). Judging from what I saw and comments made by those who played: as a game, it's mediocre at best, but if all you're expecting is a way to laugh and have a good time you could do much worse. Its biggest flaw is that it seems to be FAR too long for what it is. They had six players and they played the shortest version of the game. They started their game at about seven and by midnight they were almost done. I left before they finished but they were supposedly on the very last encounter.

Next week being Halloween, I will not be at game night and I'm unsure if there will be anyone there or not. But I'll definitely be there the following week! Hope to see you then.

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.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Yeah, yeah. I know I'm late.

I'm about as late as I can be with last week's game night post without missing it entirely. But I have a pretty good excuse (naturally). You see, I've been building a deck.

Here's the story in a nutshell: as you may know, we moved to a new house last summer. Now this is a lovely house but there were a few problems. One of them was the deck. The previous owner had built what I'm sure he thought was a lovely deck. Unfortunately, when it comes to deck construction, he was completely incompetent. I could go on and on about how bad this deck was but let me spare you the trouble and just say it this way: it was not even remotely safe. So this summer's project was tearing down the old deck and building a new one in its place. This was my last week of construction and, knowing our weather here in the Great "North-wet", I finished just in time. I suspect that's the last week of clear weather we're liable to see this year. Anyway, I've been scrambling like mad to finish it up and I've finally finished it. What a sense of accomplishment! So anyway, that's my excuse for being late with this post (and why it's going to be so short).

So last week we had a great turnout and I was able to play several games. First up for me was San Juan, the card game based on Puerto Rico. It's a fantastic game and I did worse than I've ever done. Also played was Aqua Romana which is a pretty nice connection game, similar to Metro or Streetcar. Be warned: the English translation of the rules is horrible. And capping off the night were two games of my favorite four-player card game: Tichu.

Max was my partner for one of those games and he was a real sport. Completely new to Tichu, he was forced to learn the game with three more experienced players and in spite of a few dreadful rookie mistakes, I think he did rather well. I'll happily partner with him again. Hopefully he'll come back for more tomorrow night.

Join us Tuesday night when we'll do it all again!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Game Night

We had a good turnout yesterday. Most of the regulars showed up as well as a few newcomers and some of our less regular guys showed up as well. Lots of games were played and lots of fun was had by all.

I arrived a little late again and Kai, Christopher, Jose, and I can't remember who else were busy playing Railroad Tycoon. It's unfortunate that Eagle Games is now defunct because they had a few decent games and this was one of the best. This game is essentially a streamlined and more forgiving version of Age of Steam and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Age of Steam is a masterpiece gamer's game and Railroad Tycoon makes the system a bit more accessible to the casual gamer. The board has a tendency to warp (mostly because it's so darn huge) but Kai came up with a clever way of dealing with that. He used a few black binder clips from the mail room to clamp the corners of each board section together and that did a wonderful job of forcing the thing to lay flat and also prevented the boards from shifting apart during play. Brilliant.

My first game of the evening was Oltre Mare. I played with Adam, Curt, Mike K. and Mike S. This was only my second time playing (the first being well over a year ago) and I didn't do so well. Nevertheless I did enjoy it. It's a good game about trading on the Mediterranean (gee, what a unique theme). It has some elements in common with Bohnanza but there's more going on and it doesn't have the strict rule against hand sorting. We played with the original small box version. The bits in the newer large box version (pictured) are much nicer.

Next up for me was Blue Moon City. This is Knizia's board game based on the world introduced in his card game Blue Moon. I was pretty impressed. I like the board game much better than the card game. It didn't hurt that I won.

I also managed to get in a game of Shear Panic. The game itself is pretty good filler but it does tend to lead to a bit of analysis paralysis if you play with a group who takes it too seriously (like ours). But oh the sheep! It comes with the most awesome little ceramic sheep that you've ever seen. Definitely in the running for cutest bits ever. Loved it. We'll be getting it in stock soon so be patient.

Finally, Curt and I played Tichu against Mike M. and Greg in what was one of the more lopsided games I've ever played. Curt and I couldn't catch a break and we were soundly spanked. It's a great game but it's a card game after all and sometimes you just don't get the cards you need. It didn't hurt that we lost a few Tichus that we had every reason to expect we would make. Oh well. Sometimes you win; sometimes you get completely humiliated.