Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sunday games recap (Bonus!)

Yes, you read that right- boardgames played on Sunday that bear mentioning. At last Friday's game extravaganza, I made sure to pick up at least a few games that could be played as two-player. You see, I like to include Cat in games whenever possible, so I'm always keeping an eye out for one that I think she'd play, like, look at, or even just think about playing.

In order to stave off the Sunday Blues, we passed a pleasant day in front of the electronic teat, then off to a local diner (all right, Denny's) to review my edits and notes on the most recent draft of her first novel. Does anyone know a literary agent? We had planned to see Inside Man, the new Spike Lee heisty-drama with Jodie Foster and Denzel Washington, plus the Operative from the Serenity movie and some other actors. We wound up missing it, but no matter- off to the house (apartment, fine) for to get in a few games!

First, we played Wooly Bully (BGG, BUY ME!). This is a tile-laying territory game based around sheep (Why are there more and more games cropping up with a sheep theme? I just don't want to know, I think). It plays with two to four, so we gave it a shot with two. I've got to step aside a moment and really speak about the quality of the components. Each double-sided tile shows forest, village, or sheep in four colors. Each sheep has a different pattern, for those of us with colorblindness, and each pasture has a slightly different shade of green. Very high quality, and nice touches on individual sheep made it a pleasure to look at. Sadly, I think players might readily succumb to analysis paralysis, as you have many options on each turn, and as you lay tiles that match on one, two, three, or even four sides, you'll pull more tiles, giving you more options, etc etc, vicious circle. But it's semi-light tile-laying territory game where you can throw wolves at the sheep to keep your opponent from scoring. I want to see this with four and see how vicious it can get, but Cat observed that there's not much room for table talk; if you can play a game in silence, then it's generally not going to win big on the Cat-o-meter.

As a quick aside, games play better or worse with different numbers of players, have you noticed that? A game designed for 2-4 might play like crap with three, and a game marketed as for 3-5 might simply not work with five players. Some games have expansions to let you play with more players; this usually doesn't work but is playable and therefore a completely different game. Look at Catan, am I right? But I digress.

Next, we got in three rounds of Tamsk (BGG, BUY ME!). I've wanted this game for many years; I last recall playing it before 2003 and probably sometime in 2002. I know that that copy survived Katrina, but now it's on the Left Coast. Recently coming back into print, I snagged a copy. It lists for $50, but is made of well-crafted material: six three-minute timers, sixty-four Bakelite ivory rings, and a hexagonal board. You're trying to get rid of your rings as you move your timers around the board; the center spaces hold more rings and therefore offer more movement possibilities, as once a space holds its maximum number of rings, you can't move there again. Did I mention that your pieces are timers? If they run out of sand, you leave them where they are, never to be moved again. Once again, we're talking about a game of territory, but the added dimension of time adds a delightful twist. Two players, maybe fifteen minutes per game if you're slow.

Tamsk is one of the games in the Gipf project, a sort of meta-game that can bring in its other games as part of a challenge. New pieces called "potentials" get back into the main game once the challenge is over. Imaging playing a round of chess, but each time you tried to capture a piece, you participated in a mini-game to determine the outcome: if you won, you got not only your original chess move, but also another nonstandard piece to bring in with its own rules and strategies. It's old news, but there are very interesting things going on in this world of abstract strategy. I've played only half of the six games: Gipf, Tamsk, and Zertz. The other three remain unplayed by me: Dvonn, Yinsh, and Punct.

Finally, we played three or four games of Times Square (BGG, BUY ME!). Yet another offering from Dr. Reiner Knizia, this is effectively tug-of-war with cards, a number of handsome wooden tokens and a somewhat tacked-on 1940s nightclub battle theme. This one is designed for two and two alone; I don't think teams would work. I don't normally like to talk poorly of a Rio Grande game; they have high standards of both gameplay and materials. In this case, the rules had many typos and editorial lapses; nothing game-breakingly awful, but definitely not the clearest sets of rules ever. Regardless, there's a fine game here. Indirect influence is the heart of the game as two competing nightclub owners try to lure one of two famous personages to frequent their club; Saucy Sue (plus bodyguards) and Champagne Charlie. Sue has her bodyguards to work around, Dancing Deb and Handsome Hal can both move tokens in different ways, and Charlie always follows the popular spot. Players have cards to move the various pieces, but always one and only one at a time. It took us a game or two to get the hang of it, but the time estimates are way off- this isn't a twenty- or thirty- minute game; we played one in about ten minutes; light with hints of medium-heavy. Definitely a keeper.

Oh, and happy Easter.

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