- you’ve clicked "play again" before you’ve consciously decided to play again
- you’ve been playing your "last game" for the past 2 hours
- the male voice that tells you you’re doing a good job holds a powerful meaningfulness over you
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.
From: Tejas Mistry
Sent: Monday, July 25, 2005 7:14 PM
Subject: Game night session notes VI
I have decided to pass on browbeating those that arrived late, as I am beginning to suspect that people that arrive late (usually everyone) just skip reading the first paragraph to avoid that the reprimand.
Also, in the interest of full diclosure and accountable accounting practices, I myself was ten mins late. Ten minutes, mind you, not half-an-hour, not-an-hour. Even so, Suma was dizzy with excitement at the idea of having caught me in a moment of my slight tardiness.
Suma, ever heard the old adage ‘People living in houses with lots of windows shouldn’t throw stones at others’ ? 🙂
We had a few last minute cancellations, which changed the balance of players and we were unable to play some of the-best-games-ever® as the division/distribution of players didn’t suit that.
We started off with For Sale, a fairly simple game that plays in two phases — the first an auction phase where players bid to acquire a range of real estate properties, and the second phase where everyone secretly chooses which properties they want to sell for the cheques available. Since the game only takes 6 players and we were 7 (Amlan, Mapi, Amit, Suma, Linh, Hema, Tejas) I offered to teach and sit out this game as I’ve played it a few times before. Hema offered to let me play her hand with her, I reluctantly agreed.
Everyone must have caught on the game pretty quickly as they were doing pretty well in both phases. Amlan won, with Hema (not me, I was just playing her hand) coming in last. Hema’s miserable final standing raised questions about whether I had actually played this game before. I have. I never said I’d won.
We then rummaged through Linh’s offering of games, and decided to play Bang! as it was one of the few games we had that took 7 players. I’d heard fairly good things about the game and even bought a copy to play with our group, but hadn’t had a chance to play yet (that darn Alhambra doesn’t let anything else get played!).
Linh set us off on this Western-themed game, where players take on the role of a sheriff, his deputies, a bunch of up-to-no-good outlaws, and a renegade — all in the spirit of a spaghetti western trying to kill each other. The sheriff and deputies want to kill the outlaws and renegade, the outlaws want to kill the sheriff (and if they kill the deputies on the way, thats a helpful bonus) and the renegade wants to kill everyone. The player roles are secret (except the Sheriff) so it takes a few gun-fights to find out who is on whose side. In addition to roles, each player plays a character that has a particular special ability. You attempt to shoot by playing a Bang! card at someone within shooting range (the range being determined by seating position). The person being targeted may then play a Missed card to dodge the bullet, or try to hide behind a Barrel. A Beer card, is a source of strength and helps regain lost health points. Numerous other complications arise in the course of play but I’ll avoid them here for now.
The rules are a fair bit convoluted (or seem so on the first playing) so we were all trying to find our way around in the beginning, but that didn’t stop outlaw#1 Suma and outlaw#2 Amit from shooting at Sheriff Linh right off the bat! Everyone else soon joined the melee, not so much as to target anyone with intent of achieving any goal, as to gain familiarity with the rules and mechanics of the game.
A few rounds into the game, deputy#1 Amlan and outlaw#2 Amit found themselves at each others throats, shooting the other with everything they had and the kitchen sink. Both were terribly weakened in the process, allowing someone else (can’t remember who) to walk in on the scene and finish them both off. Sad. Especially as it was just then, that they were both beginning to make sense of the game rules and mechanics.
As if there wasn’t enough chaos with bullets flying all over the place, deputy#2 Hema decided to light a stick of Dynamite and throw it into play (the dynamite goes from player to player each turn, until someone draws a fateful card blowing it up and injuring/killing them). All through this outlaw#3 Mapi and renegade Tejas were fairly quiet and ineffective, perhaps still trying to understand the game and what on earth was going on. Deputy#2 Hema and outlaw#3 Mapi soon met their fateful end, leaving just the Good, the Bad and the Cute [renegade] [editor’s note: thats what my wife claims, not my belief] to sort matters between them.
Both outlaw#1 and the renegade now had their gun-sights fixed/glued/welded onto the sheriff, taking every chance/opportunity/possibility to bring the sheriff down. But our sheriff turned out be a raving alcoholic and just kept coming back to health with those Beer cards. Now let me tell you Suma is a deadly opponent to begin with, but arm her with a range-5 Winchester and she is devastating, you can expect the "body count" numbers to increase faster than RoboCop’s.
Our drunken sheriff with all the Barrels, Horses and whatever else in defense was no match for outlaw#2 Suma’s unrelenting perseverence, and, stopping only briefly to finish off the renegade on the way, she soon taught the sheriff the difference between the quick and the dead.
That was a 2-hour long game. (Thank you Linh for bringing and teaching us this interesting game.)
Hema suggested that we needed to take a break. Everyone looked at her strangely.
Next we brought out Hoity Toity, a recent purchase I made after having played it once and thinking it was a boxful of fun. Whats fun and interesting about this game is the rock-paper-scissors mechanic that it uses. The players are bored, wealthy socialites trying to amass collections of antiques to have bragging rights in social gatherings. The way to acquire antiques is either to purchase them in an auction hall, or steal from exhibits. The way to acquire money is to steal money from the auction hall. And the way to benefit from these thefts is to have your detective present during these crimes to catch the thieves. So each you’re deciding whether you want to buy antiques, steal antiques, steal money, or catch thieves. And you’ll also trying to guess what you’re opponents are doing so that you don’t get caught, or can catch them, as the case may be. Much chaos ensues as players step on each others toes and objectives, intentionally or often not.
Midway through the game Linh took a lead on the score track and looked like she was going to be unstoppable. But this is a group that does not give up easily. Unstoppable isn’t a word they’ve learnt in their GRE preparation. The moment I pointed out that Linh was way ahead, things changed. We soon had people jumping over each other, all over the score track. Suma gunning after Linh’s lead (Suma, she’s not the sheriff anymore!) was right behind her in second place. And that would have been the pecking order at the social functions to come, if it hadn’t been for Amlan who managed jumped ahead of them both at the last minute.
We then took a quick food break with some icecream, and then appropriately set out to play a game all about food, King’s Breakfast. Its a light, quick card game that plays in about 15 mins, about being at breakfast with the King where you want to eat as much as possible, but less than the King does so as to not come across as a glutton. Amlan won by having the heartiest meal (anyone notice he is fast becoming another Suma with regard to winning games?). I sat out on this game so I don’t quite know what the others thought of the game.
Next up was the highly rated, much raved about, Frank’s Zoo, another game that I purchased after playing it once, thinking it was a boxful of …. umm… cards. This is a climbing trick-taking game, where you have to play either a greater number of cards, or a higher hierarchy of cards, than the ones played by the previous player to win the trick. It also has some interesting partnership rules (partnerships change every round) that add a bit more to the game. Again the game was fairly short and enjoyed by all I believe or at least hope.
It was getting late, so we decided to play one last game (I know most people would think if it was getting late you’d decide to go home, not us it turns out). Suma suggested Fluxx, a simple, fun game with constantly changing rules. It turned out to be more enjoyable with 6 players than I expected, and am glad Suma suggested this. If you’re a spectator of this game the two sound effects you’re bound to hear are roaring laughter or aching groans often simultaneously and sometimes by the same person.
And so it was.
A big thank you to Amit and Suma for hosting this fun gathering and putting up with our gaming addiction late into the night. And thank you for providing absolutely sumptious snacks that often competed for attention with the games.
Quote of the evening:
Suma, at the end of the gaming session, "I really liked that game Bang……<long pause> …. and it isn’t because I won!" 🙂