Dinner and Games

To pack in even more gaming into our holiday time, Lisa and I were lucky enough to get invited over to a neighbor’s house for dinner (an awesome lamb stew) and some light gaming. They’d recently purchased 7 Wonders and GUBS so we were primed and ready to help them get them to the table. But first things first…lamb stew and some Malbec!

After dinner, we pulled out GUBS. I’d read through the rules quickly earlier in the day and had a vague idea of what to expect. The game is basically structured chaos. Players draw a card, play multiple cards, and discard down to eight if you manage to get that many. You try to play the GUB cards in front of you and protect them with various Barricade cards but everybody else is playing cards on your GUBs that trap them, lure them away, kill them, etc. There are even cards that make you pass your hand left or right, destroy everybody’s unprotected GUBs, etc. You can’t expect to win on any real tactical approach as you’re at the total mercy of what cards people draw. To make it even more “fun”, three cards with the letters “G”, “U”, and “B” are randomly shuffled in the deck and when the last one comes out the game ends immediately. If you go into it with the right expectation, though, it can be a fun activity.

Next up, I introduced them to Kingdom Builder. I’ve played enough games now to feel like there are some games that due to no fault of your own, you may get locked into forced plays for much of the game and there is little you can do to work your way out of it. Other games you seem to get that lucky break here and there but when you’re locked into playing in non-point earning areas and you can’t get any more special tokens…it sucks (sorry Lisa)!

To close, they pulled out 7 Wonders and since they’d played several times before we quickly got down to business. I’ve played 7 Wonders a dozen or more times and have never gone for the green strategy so I figured, what the heck, so I went for it. As luck would have it, I got a few resources that managed to cover half of my Wonder builds, a 5-coin yellow card which bulked up my coffers a bit, and with the “build a free card each age” as my second Wonder I charge forward on my green strategy paying very close attention to the laddering affect of building cards for free with the right pre-requisites. In the end I pulled out a win by four points but I felt like it could go either way for a long time. I have to chalk it up to luck though as I sent an 8 point blue card to my left opting for another green and it made it all the way back around to me for my free build in the age.

Lisa and I had a great time and, as always, look forward to good food, with good friends, and some good games for dessert.

Impromptu Game Day – December 28, 2011

I held a mini game night at my house yesterday and although it was cut shorter than I’d hoped we did manage to get in a game of San Marco, K2, and Kingdom Builder.

After playing San Marco at Great Lakes Games this past November, I looked for a trade on BGG and scored one for a copy of The Downfall of Pompeii that I’d gotten in an earlier trade. Primed and ready to play my copy, the three of us sat down and after a quick rules refresher we got started. San Marco is, at its core, an area majority game. You’re trying to get cubes into different areas of the board in numbers sufficient to get first or second place (simply majority) when the area scores. However, the interesting aspect of the game is the mechanism that allows you to place cubes, build bridges between areas, manipulate cubes in the regions, and score them. A player draws a number of cards, some good/some bad, and divides them into three piles. Other players choose a pile and the player who split the cards gets the last remaining pile. As players choose a pile they take the actions the cards afford.

In the end, you want to maximize the number of cubes on the board diversified in as many areas as possible in sufficient numbers to score points for first or second place. It’s a relatively simple game but there can be some down-time while players allocate the cards into piles and while players choose a pile and take their turn. However, it’s a fun game and has a nasty cut-throat angle to it which, depending on your opponents, can be fun if not taken personally.

Next up on the table was K2. We slipped on the polar fleece, grabbed an extra lung, and set out trying not to die on the mountain. Each player holds a matching deck of shuffled cards and choosing three from 6 drawn cards, tries to move their two hikers up the mountain paying the up/down movement costs and protecting them from the negative effects of altitude and bad weather (negative “lung” points). There’s a bit of a push your luck aspect to the game (should you for one step higher in hopes of drawing enough lung point cards to save yourself) and enough randomness in the cards to make it a fun romp rather than a strategy game. I took the risk and went for the summit and paid a high price with the death of one of my climbers drawing all movement cards and no lung cards. Later in the evening, I had a moment of silence for my little wooden friend.

Last up was Kingdom Builder. Two of us had played several times and although we like to play new games, we didn’t have a lot of time and we wanted to introduce it to our third. I felt behind the 8-ball the whole game not really able to go anywhere but where I was forced to go based on adjacency. I only managed to get two special tokens by game end and came in a distant third. Ah, c’est la vie. The nice thing is that the game is short and you can quickly turn it around for another shot at the winner’s circle.

My wife just took a call from a neighbor inviting us over for some games tonight so look for another session report soon.

Louis XIV, Luna and My Christmas Games 2011

Lisa and I played our first game of Luna last night. It was Lisa’s first time playing and my first full game having only played a few rounds at Origins this past summer. Lisa’s not one to go through the rules of a new game if I don’t know them pretty well, but she’s been a real trooper these last few days offering to slog through them with me. It’s been great having someone to share exploring the fun packed in the box.

We laid the game out on the table and got down to business and by the time we got to the description of the actions she was starting to get glassy-eyed. She persevered and we finally got under way and thankfully, our brains didn’t explode finishing it. I have to say, that first game was a brain burner. Deciding what action to take and how to order them can be painful. Sometimes it’s obvious what you’re going to do with some of your “guys” but other times, it’s really hard to know what’s best. At one point I moved the Apostate a few islands near the end of my turn and Lisa got penalized 5 points. She wasn’t expecting that move out of me and she was a good enough sport to not make me sleep on the couch last night 🙂

I like the game but I think I’d have to be in the right mood for it. It feels like another play or two would make it much easier to organize your thoughts decreasing play time. Unfortunately, getting to that point would be difficult in the amount of time I have in my life to play games. Lisa said she’d play it again but wouldn’t jump to play it if it’s been very long since she played it last. I think she felt pretty burned out mentally after that first play that it cut into the fun for her.

The day before, I ripped the shrink off Louis XIV. I haven’t played the game in about 5 years and I’ve owned a copy for several years (CABS Math Trade) and even tried to give the copy away at the last Great Lakes Games but as luck would have it, I took my copy back on the second round of drawing figuring, what the heck, it’s a good game, I might as well take it for a spin again for old times sake.

For such a simple game, the rules are a bit of a mess. Lisa and I struggled trying to keep the scoring rules for the Louis XIV “tile” in our head but we kept forgetting how to work out the ties in the different situations. In the end, I think we got it right but it took us a bit longer than I’d hoped. We learn slowly as a team but we did it and I think it’s safe to say Lisa had a good time, as did I. It’s a keeper and I’m glad I didn’t give it away.

This evening, Lisa and I were again, slogging through the disaster of a rule book for the game Lancaster. The English is obviously translated (e.g. “face open cards”, “the options are 3”, …) and you must consult an additional components/setup sheet included in the rules to understand what to do with one of the critical components (extension boards). These boards are only mentioned once in the rules during scoring but not described any where else. What a mess.

I sort of see how the game will play out after struggling and I’m still keen on playing but wow, surprising.

Christmas is always a great time for gaming in the Marquand house and this year has not disappointed. Lisa got me copies of Lancaster and also Kingdom Builder which I’ve played numerous times but wasn’t fortunate enough, until now, to own a copy. I have to plug Game Surplus and Thor’s customer service again. Kingdom Builder arrived with a bit of a crushed box corner (very minor). Lisa emailed Thor to just let him know in case he wanted to pack things better, talk to his shipper, etc. She wasn’t expecting anything from him but he said he’d ship out a new one and return postage for the damaged one or he just refund some of her money. She counter-offered to just get free shipping on another game and in turn made it a win/win situation. I got another game (Lancaster) and Thor got another sale and a very happy pair of customers. Thanks!

I’ve got an extended game day set up with the two most hard-core players in my group tomorrow and I’ll be blogging about that over the next couple of days. More gaming…man I love Christmas!

Saturday Night Gathering of Friends – December 2011

Lisa and I host a board game night for friends and interested spouses. We’ve been gathering on the third Saturday of every month since February, 2009 and I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been careless about blogging about it. We’ve had as many as 10 or 11 and as few as four but we always have fun.

This past weekend, we gathered 5 and started the evening with China, a Michael Schacht design from 2005. For a period of time it was out of print but it looks like it’s available again on various online sites. I’m not on online gamer but, if I’m not mistaken, Michael has had some recent success rejuvenating interest in the game by providing alternate maps for the online community.

The nice thing about the game is its accessibility. Anybody capable of listening to about 5-10 minutes of rules and examples should easily be able to pick up the game. The icing on the cake is that the game only takes about 45 minutes so if you don’t understand your first game, you can quickly turn the game around and play another.

It’s been several years since I’ve played but I have no excuse. The game is a classic and deserves to be out on the table more.

After China, we paused to chat, eat some food, pull the cork on a bottle of wine, crack open a couple bottles of beer, and then set our minds to a game of 7 Wonders. We’d all played at one time or another but I gave a quick run through of the rules again and we got started. 7 Wonders is so dirt simple but it takes a bit of explaining to get through all of the rules. To new gamers, that first game will feel a bit daunting but by the second game, you’ll have trouble understanding why it felt complicated. Like China, the game is over in about 30-45 minutes (even with 7 players) so you can easily play two games back to back.

Which is, in fact, what we did. I rarely play the same game back to back but 7 Wonders was a great choice and everybody had a great time. I’m looking forward to next month’s gathering and promise to do better at blogging about it.