Thursday, June 22, 2006

Played games

Last week's gaming night was relatively short for me, so to speak. Normally, I like to get in several shorter games rather than a few longer games, but this night gave me the opportunity to play two games that I'd wanted to play for a while. (Please note that all photo credits go to Marc, who actually brought a real camera instead of me using my camera phone.)

Game the first: VIKTORY II (BGG, BUY ME!). As you may or may not know, I played the first version with Clinton and Judson back home a few months before the storm. I remember not liking getting my units handed to me, but I liked the quick skirmish-like rules that encouraged attacking and quick play. A three-way wargame in under two hours? Yes, it can happen! The game's first production ran out by the time I wanted to purchase, so I sat tight and waited for reprints. Peter Morrison, the designer, has a great saga about the design, development, and production of the game. If you're remotely interested in the nitty-gritty of what it takes to get a game made, read the story.

To this session, we had a four-player game with myself, Greg, Dan, and Steven. The game rules provide for a nifty fog-of-war effect as players build and expand to slowly reveal the map, but I suggested that we play an open game to get used to play, and everyone agreed. Only I had played the game before, but everyone else was willing to give it a go.

After the fact, I discovered that I was in fact not missing any hexes. In laying out the board, you count the outer rim as part of the game board. We didn't, so I now know that we had a four-player game on a board for five or six. I'd like to give it another go with the correctly-sized board. I'm pretty sure I can get everyone on board again. We had a good time, even if it was a bit slow to build up at the start. I suspect the larger board caused the slowness, and I also suspect scenarios other than "conquer the world" would help a bit. Dan even tossed out an idea for a King of the Hill scenario. Quick session recap: Greg slowly built up his forces, Dan pushed out quickly towards the center, I built and pushed towards Steve, who was crushed between myself and Dan. After Greg and I started squeezing Dan, he conceded and we went to play other things.

I didn't do the best job of explaining the rules, but the others had no objections and all explicitly said they liked having one person be the gatekeeper for the rules. I think there's something to having a gatekeeper (as it were) for the rules to adjudicate and inform. Probably this is the sort of game that would benefit from a referee, but I know that other, less competitive games could also benefit from having one overseer guy. It was also fun to play a strategic wargame as differing from a Eurogame and actually crush my opponents into submission. I don't think I'm about to trade in all my stuff for Advanced Squad Leader, but I enjoy playing a wide variety of games to work out the ol' noodle.

While we played VIKTORY, Ryan and Yari played several games of Marc's prototype, Hive (NO BGG, NOT YET FOR SALE). This game has lots of promise, and Marc could put it on a shelf tomorrow (with a bit of effort). It's sort of like targeted Othello (aka Reversi). Each player has a set of numbered pieces. Each has arrows showing you in which direction you can flip your opponent's pieces- either by one higher-numbered piece or with two pieces summing to the target. There's no chain reactions. Total your color at the end, highest points wins. It plays elegantly, and there's definitely strategy there that I didn't instantly grasp. I'd totally buy this so I could play it again.

Next game was Mall of Horror (BGG, BUY ME!), a vicious social game about zombie survival. The basic mechanic is moving your survivors (Tough, Gunman, Pinup, and Kid) from shop to shop in the mall; if you're in the parking lot, you have a chance to find a card to help you survive. Beyond that, you vote on pretty much anything else. Who get to become Security Guard and see where the zombies will arrive? Vote. Who gets eaten next? Vote. If you lose all your survivors, you still have a little input by placing an additional zombie each round and helping to break ties, but this is a game of backstabbing and player elimination. The components are top-notch and very evocative- the cards look like bloody Polaroids, for instance. It felt a little long with six and Marc died first, quickly followed by me. I think Steven was the ultimate winner.

Last for the night was Lucca Città (BGG, BUY ME!). This needs to be played again, as we all missed a few rules for the last game of the night. Dan has a very detailed writeup of the session over on the Stink's blog. In a nutshell, it won an Italian game competition themed around cities and walls. It's a steal for less than ten bucks.

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