Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Whee!!! It's Game Night!

We had a very nice turnout for last night's game night, although most people were at least a half hour late. For the first twenty or thirty minutes I was beginning to wonder if my watch were still on Chicago time or something. (I was in Chicago for my brother's wedding the weekend before last.)

My first game of the evening was a quick six player hand of Sticheln which we played while waiting for others to arrive. Sticheln is a fun game but it gets very chaotic with six or more players and you really need to play more than one hand.

Once we achieved critical mass, we divided up into groups and my group played a few hands of four player . I still think that five is the sweet spot for this game but four is pretty close. We had some rather unusual card distributions this time around and that led to a couple of hands in a row that nearly ran the table. I'm happy to say that I was the beneficiary of most of those miracle hands. I don't remember all of the details but I do remember several hands in a row where the under-trump was a bit of a surprise and turned out to be exactly what the chief was looking for. At least two hands went like this: vice chooses number (usually 1s) with the thought of removing points from trump, chief has plenty of that number and also happens to have a pile of 9s and 7s in his hand (and usually unbeknownst to him, in his partner's hand as well) so he calls 7s and proceeds to run the table taking all but two or three tricks. That scenario repeated itself two or three times. The phrase of the night was "Whee!!!!!" and it was repeated many times. *grin*

Meanwhile the other group played Lenoardo Da Vinci. Leonardo is a very good production engine style game where players bid for resources that are used to produce inventions. As the game progresses, laboratories get progressively more powerful, enabling players to complete more valuable inventions. Our group really likes Leonardo and it seems to come out every other week. I'm not quite as hot on it as the rest of the group. I suspect that has something to do with the fact that I always seem to lose badly. One of these days I need to get back up on that horse but I didn't feel up to it last night.

After our Mü game finished, four of us sat down for a friendly game of Shogun. Well, the players may have been friendly but the competition was actually quite fierce. This was a very close game. I was in second after the first year and I was quite afraid that I wasn't going to be able to turn the game around in the second year. I was especially worried when Adam decided to break our truce and took two of my provinces in the very same season that I had built buildings on them. Well, in all honesty I rather expected it would happen but I still had hoped to have time to hold him off. Fortunately I was able to recapture one of them and capture a different key province from him in the next season. But the most curious aspect of this particular game was that we seemed to have a whole rash of big conflicts that ended with neither party controlling the contested provinces. Ben and Jason had something like four conflicts in a row (some of which looked decidedly one-sided going in) that resulted in ties and then in the final season, Adam and I lost a province in the same way. I was particularly worried in the last season when I lost both my rice production province and my gold production province before they could produce. I was sure to have a revolt and I was really counting on the gold to enable me to build a couple more buildings during that final season. Without the gold I was only able to build one theater instead of a castle, a temple and a theater. Without the rice I did indeed have a province revolt. Luckily I was able to suppress the revolt and my theater gave me the one point I needed to edge Adam out for the win by a single point. Talk about your close games! Good times.

Other games played tonight included Go, Tichu, and Nexus Ops. I'm sure there were others as well but I don't remember what they were.

Come join us next Tuesday! We meet at 5:00 in the Microsoft building 50 cafeteria. Just walk around the back and knock on the door if you need access. Someone will be happy to let you in.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Game Night's Game: Mykerinos

Tuesday's game night was very short for me. I had to go home early to help my wife paint the kitchen. We're nearing the end of a kitchen remodel and she had a party on Thursday and wanted things to look a little closer to done for her friends. Anyway, that meant that I only had time for one short game and Mykerinos got the nod.

Mykerinos is one of my very favorite light-weight area control games. It plays wonderfully with 2-4 players and it's very quick. Usually I can play this game in well under an hour and sometimes as little as 30 minutes if everybody knows what they're doing and plays quickly. This time took a little longer than that since one of the players hadn't played before and needed to be taught the rules. It still went very quickly though.

I didn't manage to get into the museum as early as I would have liked and I also had a minor miscalculation on the last turn. It ended a little sooner than I was prepared and I didn't have time to get all the cubes onto the board that I wanted to. Those two things cost me the win; but only just. I still came in a very close second.

I need to play this game more often. It really hits the sweet spot for me on so many levels: short, strategic, elegant, attractive. Gotta love it.

Hopefully next Tuesday I'll be able to stay for the whole evening.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Game Night

Tuesday night was game night and I did play a couple of games; only a couple though because I arrived late.

My first game of the evening was a game of Tempus. This is a very light Civilization style game by Martin Wallace. It's heavily abstracted and feels very Euro-Gamery but I like it. It had been a while since we'd last played and it took us a little while to refresh our memory on the rules but it went pretty smoothly afterward. Unfortunately, our minds were also a little fuzzy on the strategy and so we let Adam get a really good starting position all to himself. There was really little question as to who would win after the first few turns. Hopefully we can play this one again soon and give Adam some real competition.

Next up was a game of Tichu. Mike and I teamed up against Adam and Kai. Mike and I got out to an early lead. We teased Kai and Adam by allowing them to nearly catch up just before the last hand. The final hand was a doozy though. Kai was holding a very strong hand. He had something like three aces and the dragon and he had passed the dog to Adam. What's more, although Kai didn't know it, Adam was holding a bomb so that only made Kai's hand even stronger. Naturally, Kai called "Tichu". What he didn't know was that Mike also had a bomb and I was holding not one but two bombs! As it was, Kai still almost made his Tichu call. It took all three of our bombs to stop him but three bombs proved just enough for Mike and I not only to stop Kai but also to go out one-two for the double win. What a satisfying way to end a Tichu game.

Speaking of great card games, we've been playing a lot of at lunch lately and while this particular game didn't take place at game-night I still want to mention it. Thursday's Mü game went pretty well for me. We've been playing four handed Mü to 500 points over a couple of lunch hours. I started the day yesterday (Thursday) with something like six points. The leaders were in the early three hundreds. Needless to say, I had some catching up to do and catch up I did. By the end of the game I was up over 500 points. I didn't win the game but I certainly won the day and I came in a very close second. I was blessed with several good hands but the one which really satisfied was when the leader had a large bid with something like six yellow cards showing. What he didn't know was that I held all but one of the remaining yellow cards in my hand: cards which I refused to bid; preferring to hide them. Instead, I made sure that I bid enough to secure "vice" so that when he won his bid I would be unavailable to him as a partner. I then called ones as the lower trump, since I was holding one of the two yellow ones. He called yellow (with a bid that high, what choice did he have?) and then I proceeded to split most of the points with him: more than enough to set him and earn a hefty bonus for myself in addition to the points I took in play. How sweet! I love this game.

Monday, June 11, 2007

I'm Back!

Yesterday we returned from a nine day trip to Yellowstone National Park. We saw wolves, bears, pronghorn, elk, mule deer, moose, osprey, bald eagles, coyotes, geysers, hot springs, fumaroles, mud pots, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, lodge pole pine, and so many bison that we nearly got bored of them. It was fantastic. Anyone who thinks that the fires of 1988 ruined Yellowstone hasn't been there recently. Below are just a couple of the hundreds of pictures we took. I'm still sifting through all of the pictures. Sorting them all out is likely to take days.
We were kept so busy seeing the sights that we only managed to play a single game in the entire time we were there: Loopin' Louie. I brought along a whole pile of games but we never had the inclination to bring any of them out. That and I didn't really want to get them dirty. *grin*