Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Just a quick note to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Hopefully your holidays will be filled with fun and games!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Game Night Recap

Well blow as they may, the winds and darkness could not deter me from attending game night. This time I brought my three eldest boys (anything to get them out of our cold house).

My first game of the evening was the new reprinted edition of Taj Mahal. This is considered by some to be one of Reiner Knizia's crowning achievements. Personally, it's not really one of my favorites. Admittedly I haven't played it as many times as some so perhaps I'm not yet in a position to judge but to me it seems rather dry and relatively driven by the luck of the card draw. I'm sure a more experienced player would find plenty of reasons to disagree with me. I enjoy it well enough though and I had a good time playing. Jason (my second eldest) wiped the floor with the rest of us for reasons that I still can't quite grok.

Next up was a very nice game of Tempus in which I just managed to squeak by with a victory. I've played this game numerous times now and I quite like it. I'll post a review as soon as I get the energy to write one up. It's surprisingly light for a Martin Wallace title but I still enjoy it quite a bit.

It wouldn't be game night without a Tichu game or two. I guess I can't say much more about that other than my team won again. How nice.

Kray (my oldest) played a game of Caylus. I can't tell you what happened though as I wasn't involved. It's still my favorite game to come out since its release about a year ago. A truly great game.

I'd also like to (ahem) "thank" Christopher for loaning Car Wars: The Card Game to my kids for the holidays. At least they enjoy it. I'm sure they'll force me to play it at some time but I'm not particularly looking forward to it. *chuckle*

But on a more positive note I should also congratulate Christopher for having his Pink Godzilla Dev Kit listed by Eric Arneson as his #5 pick of the best card games of 2006! See guys! And I'd just like to give a big thumb on the nose to all those guys on BGG who claimed his reviews were all shills. (You know who you are.) See!? I wasn't just being nice when I said it was a good game!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Power's Back!

After almost exactly six days without power, the heroes at PSE finally got our lights working for us again. The house almost feels normal now.
I'll post more shortly but I thought I'd get this out ASAP.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Games Must Go On

It's still dark and cold here without power but I'll be going to game night tonight anyway. After all, building 50 has heat and light!
Hope to see you there.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Not By the Hair of my Chinny Chin Chin!

The big bad wolf tried and tried but he couldn't blow our little house down.

Wow! I haven't seen a storm like the one that hit Seattle Thursday night since the famous Inauguration Day storm of 1993. Back then we were in an apartment but this time we weathered the storm in a house surrounded by tall trees. Winds in the area were clocked at well over 80 MPH so you can imagine how uncomfortable we felt surrounded by all those trees. At one point the rain was coming down so hard (over 1 inch/hour) that we had a waterfall of water spilling over our gutters. A huge fir tree on the property line between our house and our neighbor's house was blown down. Luckily it fell to the east and blocked our neighbor's driveway. If it had fallen the other way it would have either hit our house or smashed our cars. Other houses in our neighborhood were not so lucky.

Power remains out at our house and most neighborhoods in the outlying areas on the East Side. I'm writing this from another computer in downtown Redmond which only recently has had power restored. We may be without power for another day or more so don't be surprised if I don't answer any email or respond to any comments for a while.

At the end of it all, we feel very blessed to have got through this relatively unscathed. There was no damage to our house or property. We have a generator that is keeping our food cold and allowing us to heat one room. We also have a gas fireplace which has kept us warm enough. The kids are treating it like a camping trip. Things could be much, much worse.

I'll post some pictures when we get our power back.

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.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Rise and Fall of the Vinci Empire

We had a really strong turnout for game night last night. There were enough people to have several games going at once so, as usual, I'll focus on the games in which I participated.

First up for me was a quick game of Liar's Dice. This is just about the perfect opener since it's so short and it's very easy for people to join a game in progress. It also helps that my homemade edition supports up to 7 players so there's plenty of room for people while we wait for enough to arrive that we can split up into the more serious games. I came in second which wasn't bad considering I played most of the game with only a couple of dice.

Next up was a game of Vinci. This is one of the better conquest games out there. Something of a hybrid between a war game and a eurogame, in Vinci, players bring civilizations on to the board in order to score points. Each civilization has a pair of traits that make it unique and part of the fun is in deciding which of the available civilizations is likely to score the most points in a given situation. I got off to a respectable start but Oren (the evil one) wiped out one of my civilizations before it could really get a foothold and I ended up playing catchup for the rest of the game. I was quite pleased when he and I both tied for last place. Just catching up to him felt like an accomplishment. (How'd that strategy work for you buddy? *chuckle*)

Next Oren, Brian, Adam and I played a few games of Tichu. Adam and I, who play together at lunch pretty regularly, were eager to partner together but Oren immediately objected on the grounds that we were the two most experienced players. We talked him into grudgingly allowing us to partner on the condition that we would play more than one game and switch partners for the second if he liked. Then he and Brian proceeded to mop the floor with us. It was one of the more lopsided games I've ever played. It seemed like Adam and I couldn't catch a single break. Several hands and many failed Tichu calls later, we lost and we were only too happy to have a score above zero. Adam and I insisted on a rematch and in the second game we fared much better, winning by a comfortable (although not extreme) margin.

Wrapping up the evening for me was a nice game of Inkognito. I've played this three or four times now and I like it. It's not a great game by any stretch but it's a nice, friendly, relatively short deduction game. The pieces are great and the game play is pretty good, if a little old school (it's an older game). One thing that annoys me though is that it's possible for someone to get unlucky and have nothing they can do on their turn. At the beginning of each turn you shake a device that reveals three colored balls. The balls indicated what you can do on your turn. White balls give you no action and it's possible (albeit unlikely) to get three of them. One variant I've considered is to remove one (or even two) of the three white balls so that players are guaranteed to be able to at least move something on their turn. I'll have to try that next time and see how it goes. I think it would be an improvement. Still, it's a fun little game. Oren (the no so evil one this time) and I won.