Friday, October 13, 2006

Gaming foursome

A few weeks back, my old college buddy invited Cat and I over to his place for dinner with he and his lady. We had seen each other a few weeks back, but we hadn't gotten together for games in several months.

Dinner was awesome beef fajitas and Jen's kick-ass homemade salsa. Desert was even more awesome from-scratch raspberry sorbet.

We played:

I first pulled out Die Mauer (BGG, BUY ME!), the competitive building game. I remain convinced that this a good intro game for non-gamers. It's a no-luck mind-reading game of bluffing and not bidding. The 'Geek makes mention of an early edition of the game made from metal that would set you back about sixty USD per player, which would add an immeasurable amount of satisfaction and aesthetics to play. As is, the pieces are a nice unfinished wood, allowing your inner architect to run wild. I suspect that the metal pieces would've fared better when kept under water for three weeks.

Judson had originally picked up Die Mauer way back in the iRev2 days after Y2K. His copy was destroyed due to Katrina. I've got a good amount of memory associated with this game; Susie being scary good at this game, for one. Maybe the tactile nature of the game, coupled with the need to second guess your opponents while playing at mind reader simply causes a stronger imprint that your average German game. I like this one a lot; I recently surprised Judson with a copy I had acquired specifically as a present.

After a few rounds of keeping score, Cat won over me by one point, Jen was a close third, and John decided to collect points instead, reaching a solid last place.

To exercise a different area of the brain, I suggested we play My Word! (BGG, BUY ME!). I brought this word game because I remember Jen had enjoyed the previous word game. The way I see it, if someone like mainstream game X, there's a better designer game Y with the same theme or mechanic or overall objective. Because a player's skill at this game has more to do with pattern recognition than dictionary memorization of obscure Scrabble words, I tend to score high. In four hands, I beat second place by twenty-five points. Go, me!

For Sale (BGG, BUY ME!) came out next. This quick little auction game went over very well; we played twice. Jen, in fact, was the one who uttered those three magic words: "Let's play again!" Scores were relatively close for four people, with a max spread of 17 and 21 between first and last in both games. First game ranking: John, Jen, Me, Cat; Second game: Me, Cat, John, Jen. I still have no idea how to pitch this game so it sounds fun, but it is a nice and tight little box of fun.

Note: I've just read over on the 'Geek that we've been playing this wrong due to an ambiguity in the rules. Instead of taking back half your bid rounded up, you actually take back half your bid rounded down. I wonder how much differently this will play.

At this point, Jen wanted us to play one of their games: Phase 10 (BGG, BUY ME!), a rummy variant. Let me state up front that I'm not big on rummy games. I hated this game; hated it for two or three hours as time stood still for the duration of play. I'm not kidding! This is a simple card game with four players that took more than two hours for one game.

When I last talked to Leslie about Phase 10, she told me she loves the game because it reminds her of her grandfather. I can respect that, but Phase 10 is way too long for the fun it delivers. And I'm not big on rummy, either. I can tell that there might be a fun game buried in here, but here's the ultimate indicator of how much I don't like this game: I'd rather play Monopoly. Seriously.

EDIT: Cat won.

Interestingly, all of these games have relatively low BGG game numbers, to a one under 3000, implying a batch of older games. Phase 10 is from 1982, For Sale came out 1997, Die Mauer 1999, and My Word! was published in 2001.

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