From: Tejas Mistry
Sent: Monday, August 22, 2005 7:24 PM
Subject: Game night session notes VII
We had a small but highly enthusiastic turnout.
Amit, Suma and Linh arrived together, and instead of ringing the doorbell (perhaps in an effort to save us a milli-watt of electricity), decided to draw our attention with their loud chatter standing outside the door. And they did.
I gasped seeing Linh walk in without any of the games she’s promised to bring, but forgave her quickly when she suggested that the alternative would have been to arrive late.
In an attempt to mend my reputation of being impatient with small-talk and wanting nothing more than game playing, I restrained myself and tried to play host for a few minutes offering refreshments and polite conversation — only to find Suma and Linh urging that we abandon the nonsensical chit-chat and get on with the games. Ummm…. sure 🙂
Suma suggested that we start off with something simple and familiar to warm up the part our brain that manages game-playing (the official medical term likely being "the Alhambra Cortex") so we chose Category 5, a simple card game where you play the cards out of your hand onto rows of cards present on the table, trying to avoid having to pick up any rows. The rows are in ascending order of card number, and can only hold upto five cards. A player having to place a sixth card in a row (based on certain rules) is required to pick up that row of cards. Players simultaneously choose which cards they want to play out of their hand, so the results are unpredictable and there is a healthy dose of chaos. We played two rounds with regular rules, and then one round with a variant rule. Everyone seemed to enjoy the variant better as it created even more chaos and reduced ‘sure win’ strategies.
We then moved on to High Society, an auction game where we start off with some money and will be bidding on luxury possessions of varying value that come up for auction. There are certain ‘negative’ items that come up for auction where the game reverses its mechanic, with everyone now bidding not to take that item. We started off slow, with everyone being careful with their money, but it didn’t take long for us to throw caution to the wind and dive into a furious bidding frenzy that would put some Ebayers to shame.
I think two things take the game from being good to great. First, there are only certain denominations of money that you are given – e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, etc – and you may only bid or increase a bid with whatever denomination you have remaining in your hand. So if you bid 6 and you only have a 3 and 4 in your hand, you can only increase your bid to 6+4 or 6+3, you may not take back the 6 and bid 3+4 instead. Second, the person with the least money remaining at the end automatically loses – so you can’t just bid away all your money to win good items.
I should have paid more attention to that second point, as I did end up with the best possessions, but discovered much to my chagrin that I also had the least money (I thought I was saving enough!) and so was disqualified/eliminated/voted off the island. Amit, who had got me into a bidding war over the last item and then dropped out in time to let me spend a dollop of my precious money on it, won, with having the next best possessions and, wisely, enough money.
I italicized that this was an auction game earlier, because this game helped Suma and Hema discover, or confirm any previous suspicion they had, that they didn’t like auction games. They went on to check and ensure that any game we were suggesting to play thereafter for the rest of the evening wasn’t an auction game. 🙂
We then stopped for a dinner break. We had ordered some Thai food from a nearby restaurant, and Amit and I left to pick up our order. Hema suggested they could use the time we were away for some ‘girl-talk’. Either the suggestion was passed upon or they didn’t have much to talk about, because we found them all playing Coloretto when we returned a few minutes later.
I think this change with ordering dinner in the midst of game-playing worked out well. It provided time and space for everyone to socialize over dinner (we didn’t talk about games over dinner, did we?), and also provided just enough of a break in the gaming to have everyone energized and ready for more. (Anyone wish to share their thoughts/feelings on how the dinner plan worked out?)
In the few seconds I was away from the game table, clearing away some dinner plates, a consensus had somehow been established about playing Citadels . Not particularly wanting to play that game (its a very good game, no fault of the game in that) but absolutely wanting to respect that this was the fastest ‘what-shall-we-play-next’ decisions ever made, I yielded. The core of the game is selecting one of eight characters every turn, and using special powers (Linh was bothered that we called these ‘special actions’ rather than ‘special powers’. Sorry Linh, hope I’ve redeemed myself by using the correct nomenclature here 🙂 associated with each character to your benefit or someone else’s detriment.
The game was more fun than I remember it being, and I’m glad we played it. Linh seemed to have a grasp on the subtleties of the game that the rest of us clearly didn’t. She tried to ensure that she built a district every turn, even if it wasn’t worth much in points. Most of the others aimed on building more valuable districts for the higher points, but could only afford to do so every few turns. I struggled to actually get a turn, as the characters I chose kept getting killed by the Assassin character, causing me to lose my turn. Linh won with her plethora of districts.
Linie 1 is tile-laying game, where you’re trying to build a tram track from one of your terminals, past two specified locations, to another one of your terminals. The tracks are common to all players, so others may use your tracks and may also add to your tracks often ruining your routes. This was a lot of fun in my opinion (some will agree and some won’t 🙂 There was a fair bit of frustration as tiles placed by someone for their route would often ruin routes for others. While most of us were barely coping with the challenge of connecting our own destinations, Linh found joy in taking the time to ruin routes for others. A few rounds into the game, Linh placed a tile that ruined Hema’s route or at least Hema thought it ruined her route, and thereafter, Hema spent 10 seconds every turn pointing to, and complaining about that one particular tile and how it was the bane of her existence in the game (sometimes she did that out of turn too). I tried reassuring her that it wasn’t possible for a single tile to irreversibly ruin a route, but my explanation wasn’t convincing enough.
Once someone completes their target route, they drive their tram along their route, movement being decided by roll of a dice.
I completed my route first, and started my tram movement. Amit finished his route next, with Suma following soon after. We were close to the end of the game when Hema suddenly discovered she did have a way to work around the ‘bane-of-my-game-existence-tile’ and started working to complete that route. Amit was able to drive his tram quicker and completed his route travel faster than Suma or me, winning the game. Linh and Hema hadn’t quite completed their routes.
We were close to or past midnight then, and to change the pace, I suggested we play Cairo, supposedly a light and fun dexterity game that we hadn’t played before. Its an Egyptian-themed game where you flick little cubes off a boat onto a board marked with some pyramid-building construction areas. You can build pyramids from the cubes that land in the construction area, and you can also flick your cubes off the boat aiming to destroy pyramids built by others. This game turned out to be a lot more fun than I had expected. It was difficult flicking and getting the cubes to land within the confines of the fairly narrow board, but with some practice, we got better. Whats also great about the game is that there is a fair bit of strategy along with the dexterity element, as each construction site is worth a different amount of victory points (smaller/difficult sites obviously worth more) and you get points for having majority or second-majority of cubes in a site, so there are choices you make about which sites to aim for, etc. Its hard to describe our game play as there was just a lot of activity each turn with cubes falling all over the board, pyramids being built, pyramids being destroyed, and in a few instances, Suma flicking such that her boat would fall down along with the cubes.
This is a game that I vote we should play every game night. We need a couple of games like this which are just plain silly and fun.
Next, I suggested a game from the league of the-best-games-ever®, a game called Showmanager. It was late and I feared everyone’s Alhambra Cortex might be slowing down, but decided to gamble on it. Showmanager is an excellent game, and while fairly simple in its game play, its a little difficult to describe the mechanic concisely and precisely enough to be able to capture the coolness about the game. Its a game about hiring actors to put up plays for the theatre. The plays are valued (and ranked for victory points) according to how well and appropriately you have cast your actors for each play. There is limited money to hire actors, and in a very interesting mechanic, you can take a loan from plays you have already completed — this however causes the play to lose its value (and as a result, lose its ranking). I think we started slow and sluggishly, but as everyone got familiar with the mechanic the pace of play and depth of strategy changed. Linh won with having several top-ranked thespian productions, the rest of were buried under the burden of our loans. I was glad to know that everyone enjoyed the game and thought highly of it as well.
Next we had some calls for Frank’s Zoo. While its quite a nice game in its own right, I have failed to understand the particular appeal this game has taken to some in our group – a group that seems fairly immune otherwise to being enamoured by any game (except the great Alhambra!) [I have yet to have a session report without Alhambra being mentioned in some way!].
This was one of the few games that everyone had played before and with a brief reminder about specialness of the hedgehogs and lions we jumped right into the game. We’ve learnt from experience that the Elephant cards are fairly useful and powerful, and we found them being treasured and played more carefully than in the past (even more than the Orca cards, which are supposed to be the most powerful in the deck). Also, since everyone is now familiar with the game strategy, it was interesting to watch the battles over the hedgehogs (which avoid a -1 penalty) and lions (which give positive points). It was a fun game to end the evening with.
3:20am. ‘Twas a long, fun-filled game evening.
A big thank you to Hema for catering to our thirst and hunger instincts through the evening, and providing healthy alternatives to our demands for junk food.
Quote of the evening:
Hema, during Linie 1, "That tile has really ruined my route, I can’t go anywhere because of that tile. That tile." 🙂
The next game night is scheduled for September 10th.
We don’t have a host yet, so offers are welcome.