Tuesday, November 28, 2006

No Game Night For Me

Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond my control, I've decided to skip game night and just stay in my warm safe home tonight. Perhaps this picture will give you some idea of why. This is what the road down the hill from our house looked like all day today.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Pirate Mü Cow Spies?

Last night's game night was extremely enjoyable. Our attendance was just a little bit thin due to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday but we still had enough players to keep a couple of game tables well populated.

The Seattle gang joined with Kai to play his new edition of Die Macher. We were all a little puzzled by some of the production choices they made. They changed the artwork for the new edition but most of the changes were subtle enough that I didn't notice them at first and the few that weren't subtle seemed to add nothing at all to the presentation. That opinion is based on only a casual glance at the game (since I wasn't playing) so I may be completely wrong here. It's a fine game and were it not for the length (which is far too long for my tastes) I'd long to play it again soon.

The rest of us started the evening with a very nice game of Rum & Pirates. It's a light and somewhat random game with nice bits and a really nice and highly functional storage tray. Don't let that "somewhat random"comment put you off though; it's got more than enough strategy. I can vouch for that because I consistently lose and tonight was no exception. Curt applied his superior experience (he's probably played it twice as much as any of us) to good effect. He ran away with the game.

Next we played the new edition of Inkognito. This is an Alex Randolph and Leo Colovini gem where players are spies in Venice during Carnival. It's a very nice light deduction game. Players wander around a map trying to figure out who is who and what they're up to. The bits in this game are absolutely awesome. Each player has four large plastic "reveller" pawns complete with tri-cornered hats and carnival masks. But the best bit is the "Phantom of Prophecy" which is basically a random color generator in the shape of a large Masked Carnival Phantom. At the start of each turn, the player shakes him around and then puts him on the table. There are ten colored balls inside and three of them appear in three windows. The colors that appear determine what you can do on your turn. It's fun just to shake the darn thing.

Mike and I won the game but we almost blew it. We had satisfied the victory condition but due to a minor rules misunderstanding, Mike failed to let me know which of his pawns was "the real one"and so I couldn't be 100% sure that we had won. That caused me to hesitate to declare victory, figuring I'd leave it for Mike to do on his turn. But on the next turn, Curt declared that he and Steve had won the game. Luckily for us, he had made a transcription error and so he was wrong. That gave Mike and I the win after all.

A couple of late comers had arrived by then so we decided to play a game of next. The more I play this superb trick taking game, the more I like it. I'll gladly play this game any time. We had a very competitive game and I came in second by only one point.

And we wrapped it all up with another game of... you guessed it: Tichu. This time Curt and I partnered against Mike and Steve. We got out to a very good start but then the tables turned and the game turned in to a bit of a slog. Several hands went by with no one having enough confidence to call "Tichu". We eventually found ourselves on the brink of losing. Mike and Steve had (I think it was) 970 points and we were at about 630. Curt tried a "Hail Mary" Large Tichu call and we made it, then we followed it up with another Tichu to lock up the come-from-behind win.
National Games Week 2006I hope you all have a safe Thanksgiving holiday. Play some games! After all, it is National Games Week!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Game Night Extravaganza!

Tuesday night sounds cooler than it was if I use a title like that.

My first game of the evening was Himalaya. This is a very nice programming style game in the vein of RoboRally but with a decidedly eurogame feel to it. Players move their caravans along a network of paths picking up and delivering goods. At the beginning of a turn, all players plan their routes secretly, six moves at a time. When everyone is done planning then the routes are revealed and executed one step at a time. Unlike RoboRally, there is no destruction or obstruction but there is still some player interaction as you can never be sure if the goods you're going for or the delivery order you're planning to fulfill are going to still be there by the time you actually arrive. It's not quite as crazy as RoboRally but it's can still be rather chaotic.

The game is played over twelve turns and at the end of the game players add up points in three different categories. In a rather Knizia-like fashion (think High Society or Samurai) each category is scored in sequence. Players who score the least in each of the first two categories are eliminated from subsequent categories. The winner is the survivor who has the most points in the third category. I understood what the designer was going for with this mechanic but it didn't really appeal to me. I prefer games where I can shoot for "best" as opposed to "not worst". Still it was a good game and I'd be happy to play it again.

Next up was Havoc: the Hundred Years War: another game I'd not played before. This is a poker variant masquerading as a eurogame. It's a card game played with a deck of six suits ranked from 0 to 18. Players collect cards using a drafting mechanism until one player decides he's ready to do battle at which point he cries "Havoc!" and plays two cards. Then other players may opt to do battle against him by also playing cards. Players take turns revealing more cards (up to six) or passing (bowing out of the battle or standing with the cards they've already shown). Once all have passed, the player who has revealed the best hand wins the battle. Hand strength is a ranking of six-card poker hands such as straights, full houses, and the like.

I thought Havoc was a pretty decent game but having only played it once I couldn't really get a feel for how to play it well. This is definitely a game where it's important to pick your battles. If you go into battles too early, you'll be using cards that might have been more valuable to you later when the battles are worth more points. But if you wait too long then your opponents may score some easy points with some pretty weak hands. The game is just complicated enough to be interesting but not so complicated as to be difficult to learn. At the end of the day, this is a poker variant and so naturally it depends pretty heavily on luck. It's good but it's not what I would consider a classic by any means and I can think of many games I prefer.

Bet you can't guess what I played to end the night? What did you say? Tichu? Oh darn. You guessed it.

Mystery Solved

The mystery card game I talked about last week has a name and a BGG entry after all. It's Meikyu Kingdom Card Game. So now that you know the name, it'll be easier for you to avoid. Ick.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Mystery Game

Tuesday's game night kicked off with one of my more unique gaming experiences. Christopher's publisher/colleague/friend was in Essen to sell Pink Godzilla Dev Kit and he brought back a Japanese card game. Its name escapes me. I think it was "Makyou" something or other. There's no entry for it on the geek and I haven't found a web site for it so I'm not going to be able to exactly pin it down for you. It's a fantasy themed dungeon crawling card game done in Japanese Manga style. Or in other words: it's a bit goofy. (Can anyone explain to me the Japanese fascination with school-girl uniforms and big doe eyes? I've never quite understood that.) If you are in to that kind of thing then you'll probably like the artwork. I'm not. Most bizarre of all, there is one single R-rated card in what would otherwise be a family-friendly game.

The game is played with two decks of cards and a die. One deck of cards represents rooms (some of which are beyond strange) and rewards, the other represents characters and items that are used to defeat the rooms and claim the rewards. The game had some mildly interesting mechanics but the die rolling coupled with the luck of the draw resulted in a pretty luck heavy game. The common consensus around our table was "well at least it's a little better than Munchkin." The best thing I could say about this game is that the English translation is so incredibly bad that it had us laughing out loud. I'd suggest you avoid it.

So after that rather shaky start we moved on to some good games.

I was happy to get a chance to play Torres again. This is an excellent game that takes the action point and area control mechanics to a new level (pun intended). Players place tower pieces on the board in an effort to control the largest and highest towers. The only bad thing I can say about this game is that it can be a bit of a brain burner and it tends to have a bit of "analysis paralysis" but it's a fantastic game that I'm happy to play any time.

Next up for me was another game that I haven't played in a while: Trias. This is a great area control game where the board is constantly shifting and changing. Players move dinosaur herds over hexes in an effort to control territory. On each player's turn he must pick up one of the hexes and "drift" it away from the pole. At the beginning of the game the hexes are arranged in a single large continent (Pangaea) but by the end of the game the hexes will have drifted and fragmented into many different continents. It's a truly elegant game and it's one of my favorites. This belongs in every gamer's collection.

I wrapped up the night with not one but two games of Tichu. And I'm happy to report that I won them both.