Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Game Night - With Photos!

We had a great turnout last night and got in several games. This time I decided to bring a digital camera and take a couple pics of the group. Here's the result.

First game of the night for me was Drakon. This is a pretty decent tile-laying strategy game that's themed as a dungeon crawl. On your turn you may either move your figure or play a tile that represents a room of the dungeon. Most tiles have special abilities or treasure which you activate/collect when your figure steps onto them. The goal of the game is to collect ten treasure units and exit the dungeon. It was a very competitive game that went on longer than anyone expected. Several of us were ready to win the game but Curt was the one who managed to get out first.

Next up, five of us set sail with Lifeboats, a simple game where players try to get as many of their pawns as possible to shore before the boats they are in sink. Each boat has a number of spaces in it, each of which can accommodate a player's pawn. At the beginning of each round, players vote which boat will "spring a leak". That boat will then have one of its holes filled with a round "leak" marker. That reduces the space in the boat for pawns. Get too many leaks and a boat may sink, taking all the remaining pawns with it. If there's no room for the leak then all the players with pawns in that boat vote which pawn to toss out of the boat to make room for the leak. Then players vote which boat to move closer to shore. Finally, there is a sort of "Chinese fire drill" where each player pulls one of his pawns out of a boat and moves it into another boat. This gives players a chance to hedge their bets by moving pawns to another boat and it also allows for some nasty play because it's possible that not all of the pawns will be able to get back into the boats. I enjoyed Lifeboats but it's a pretty chaotic game. It can also turn pretty nasty as players gang up on whoever they perceive to be the leader. This won't go down as one of my favorite games but I enjoyed it and will happily play it again. I'm sure it didn't hurt that I won.

Next up we played a quick round of No Thanks with six players. Technically No Thanks is only supposed to go up to five players but it's quite possible to play with more without completely ruining the game. Still, I prefer to play with five or fewer.

Sticking with the light, quick and nasty theme we decided to switch to Sticheln. I really like Sticheln but it is a nasty little game that shouldn't be taken too seriously. I was doing well until the last few tricks but I knew my time was short. I had a lousy hand with no obvious choice for a pain suit. I had to resort to choosing a relatively short suit with relatively high ranking cards. I knew that was a recipe for disaster but none of my other suits were any better. Sure enough, in the last few rounds I was forced to take a gamble that proved very costly.

Meanwhile, there were quite a few players who decided to play El Grande. This is perhaps Kramer's crowning achievement. It's a truly fantastic area control game that has inspired countless other games to all use the same area control mechanic. I have no idea who won the game but I did manage to snap a picture.

When that game broke up some of our group decided to start up a game of Tichu while the rest of us decided to tackle Doppelkopf once more.

Doppelkopf is a German variant of Double Sheepshead. Kai, our resident German, introduced us to this game several weeks back and my first attempt at learning it made my head spin. Since then, I took the time to put together a small quick reference card that helped clarify most of the rules (some of which seem rather arbitrary at first, particularly to someone who's never played Sheapshead before). That helped immensely. We actually managed to play a complete game and I surprised the heck out of myself by coming in second place! The game has a pretty steep learning curve but it didn't take too long for us to get the hang of it and I can see us playing this more often. It's an excellent game.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Game Night Recap

Sorry I missed last week. I did go to game night and I did play games but I just never got around to writing it up. Bad me.

The first game for me last night was The End of the Triumvirate. The most unique feature of this game is that it is designed to be played with exactly three players. No more. No less. There is a variant for two players but it's pretty clear that it was included as a way to soften the blow of having just bought a game that really only plays with exactly three people. It's a moderately heavy game that mixes combat and politics in some pretty interesting ways. There is only a smattering of luck involved and quite a bit of strategy. I enjoyed it quite a bit even though I made a pretty horrible blunder towards the end of the game that cost me any chance at victory. Up to that point I was at least in the hunt but I failed to notice a rather important piece which made my move obviously foolish and then rather than whine about it I just sucked it up and enjoyed myself anyway.

Next up was another game that was new to me: Gheos. The grossly over-simplified description that leaps immediately to mind is: Carcassonne with triangular tiles. Of course that's a completely superficial description and the game is actually not much like Carcassonne at all. However it definitely fits in the same family of games. I enjoyed this one quite a bit. It will never be one of my ultimate favorites but I'll happily play it again any time. It's simple and it offers a pretty decent blend of luck and strategy (with the needle pointing a little more towards the luck side).

One of the other games (Imperial) was about to break up so four of us played Sticheln for a few hands while we waited. Sticheln is one of my favorite light card games. If you play it too seriously it can ruin the game but if you accept the game for what it is: a lovely excuse to stick someone with a boatload of negative points, it can be uproarious fun. Curt made the mistake of leading high in his pain suit way too early and paid dearly for that mistake. I'd feel sorry for him but he's played this game enough that he definitely should know better. Lesson learned I think.

Last game for me was Tichu (of course). This was one of the strangest and more frustrating games of Tichu I've played in a while. Curt and Mike teamed up against Steve and I (yes, two Steves) and from the start nothing seemed to go right for us. Every time we thought we had a Tichu-worthy hand we'd get set and every time we thought we might set them they'd squeak by with a win. Eventually the score was 940 points to 60. Clearly things were desperate. I was then dealt a pretty decent starting eight cards and so I decided to risk a grand-Tichu call. BOOM! We not only won the hand but we also got the double win! 400 points! Next hand we managed to pull off another Tichu-double win for 300 points! It was looking like the comeback of the century. Then we played another hand with no Tichu call but we managed to hold them to less than 60 points and force one more hand. Unfortunately we lost that final hand but at least we crawled back out of the cellar! Hooray for us!

Other games played included Thurn & Taxis, Augsburg 1520, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Imperial.

Last week's new game for me was Augsburg 1520 which I enjoyed very much. It's a bidding production game but it's a little more forgiving than production games usually are and you don't feel compelled to always win a bid. In fact, the game is structured so that occasionally it makes sense to enter an auction with the express intention of not winning the bid. Pretty cool game and I'm eager to play it again.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Game Night (Let it Snow)

The rapidly approaching snow storm (what's the deal with this winter's weather?) couldn't deter most of us from having some game night fun.

Opening game for me was a game of Carolus Magnus. It's been too long since I've played this game. Leo Colovini's games are sometimes a little to abstract and thought-intensive for my taste but this one really hits the right spot for me. It's relatively quick, very elegant, and lots of fun (at least I think so).

For the second week in a row I played Leonardo Da Vinci and for the second week in a row I did very poorly. At least this week I scored better than in the teens. I've decided that while I think this is a good game, I clearly have no idea how to do well with it. It's extremely unforgiving and any mistake early can translate into a dismal performance. I'm interested in trying it again but hopefully before that happens I'll be able to spend some time trying to figure out what I'm doing wrong.

Also played tonight: and Tichu.