Monday, January 22, 2007

Weekend gaming recap

I got a little more gaming than usual in over the weekend, since I went to game night on Friday and woke up early enough to make game day Saturday worth it. Friday proved to have quite a variety of games, and was relatively well-attended.

The night started off with Wits and Wagers (BGG, BUY ME!), a good thirty-minute filler/party/trivia game. A lot of people weren't sure what to play, and we have seven, so I pulled this out to start the night off. Unsurprisingly, it went over very well with the assembled crowd of gamers. One day, I'll play with teams.

If you want a good idea about how this game actually works in play, head over to the publisher's site and check out a how-to-play video, courtesy of the vlog Board Games with Scott. What's really cool is that particular BGWS episode is meant to be burnt to a DVD when you give the game as a gift. Last time I blogged about W&W, the designer wrote me to thank me for the write-up. I suppose that my words are reaching a larger audience than I imagined! I still need to replace the included plastic poker chips with real clay ones- it adds a great deal to the play experience.

We still had a large group of people, so I pulled out Carabande (BGG, OOP BUY PITCHCAR!) and proceeded to act as caller for an eight-person race. I still have fond memories of observing people play this at Dragon*Con many years ago; a dozen people surrounding the track, cheering and jeering and encouraging the racers. I strongly feel this game is improved with someone acting as color commentator. It's also very pleasant to play on nice big tables with big flat MDF pressboard to keel the track level.

Next was RoboRally (BGG, BUY ME!). It hit the table because we had eight people wanting to play a game, one of whom had requested RoboRally since he'd never played it. This wound up taking much longer than I would like, and I'm not sure that everyone has as much fun as they could have had. Significantly, the game can drag for too long if a poor starting setup is chosen. I suggested (with eight players) using four flags and two boards. This was waaaaaaaay too long for new-to-the-game players. I should have had one board, no more than three flags. We should have also used my "misread the team rules variant" to allow for more teamwork and less frustration. Everyone still enjoyed it, but we decided to quit when someone hit the second flag. This will be a hard sell for some of the gang, depending on the next setup.

Still burning our brains, we played Carrousel (BGG, IMPORT ME) twice. This is becoming a very popular game in the circles, and I'm pretty good at it; I know I won at least once. Instead of playing touchpiece as the rules suggest, the convention has been to call out "ta-da" to lay claim to a move. Hats off again to Carlos from St. Louis for introducing this to me at BoardGameGeek Con. I can only hope that Asmodee will make this game available in the USA. The game components are all language-independent, and only a rules translation would be needed. Either way, if you know someone going to France or you want to order from Canada, pick this one up.

Last game of the evening turned out to be Wits and Wagers (BGG, BUY ME!) again. Some of the crew who had come in during the first game and wanted to play. An interesting bookend effect.

And here's what got played on Saturday:

I arrived a little late, and the crew was well into a game of Leonardo Da Vinci (BGG, BUY ME!), one of the new ones that's gotten a lot of buzz. I wasn't able to play it, but it looked very engaging.

While I was waiting, two new guys wandered in, having never visited the store. Happily, I got to introduce them to Wiz-War (BGG, OOP SORRY WRITE CHESSEX)! Amazingly, this three-player game of Wiz-War was one of the fastest I've ever played, and I got my tail handed to me nine ways to Sunday. Even so, I still could tell you a semi-epic story about me using a Powerthrust with a 6 to deal 8 points of damage which was then fully reflected back to me. Later, the same guy was able to hit me with Sudden Death; I drew no counteractions the entire game. Plus, to add insult to injury, killing me dropped my own treasure on his home base, which helped him win.

At this point, the other game had finished and I pulled out Dragon Delta (BGG, BUY ME!), another request to introduce. We were all set to start a four-player game, when I invited a random guy from San Antonio to join us. Two of the five (three, counting me) had played RoboRally just before, and this compared favorably. You're still racing, you're still programming your moves, there's still chaos and player interaction. The board constrains movement in a good way, as compared with the potential aforementioned problems of RoboRally. Everyone enjoyed it, and I'm glad that I was able to introduce it to three new players. Some say it's too chaotic, and it can be; I think that the level of chaos does depend on the players. Like many games, I look forward to playing it with those who know it already.

And speaking of new players, I got to play my copy of Mystery of the Abbey (BGG, BUY ME!) for the first time. I had gotten this in a trade and had just never had the opportunity to play. In a nutshell, it's sort of like Clue (WP, BGG, BUY ME!) that you played all those years ago, except this time it's actually fun. Yes, there's naturally a Euro take on a deduction game: moving is not random, the rooms grant you abilities to aid your deduction, and the whole thing is dripping with the theme of a murder in an abbey. Rounds are marked by Mass and a little bell, for instance. Instead of Miss Scarlett with the Candlestick in the Billiard room, it's a case of the fat, bearded, unhooded Benedictine Father: Bruno. (Alex guessed correctly. I still had six monks that could've done it.) This is a good one, and there's an expansion that's now included with the game.

The group mixed up a little, and Vince taught us all Midgard (BGG, BUY ME!). This game is very tight and agonizingly evil, so I'm probably going to pick it up in the near future. It's a basic area control game with Vikings and an extremely limited set of what you can do each turn. There's also a confrontational wargame aspect to this title, since you can actually wipe out the other player's guys and send them to Valhalla. (Unfortunately for you, since this is Ragnarok, being dead gets your enemy points.) There's a little brain-burning here if you don't instantly grasp the strategy. Vince won by a nose.

The store was almost closed after many happy hours of gaming, so Vince suggested Nottingham (BGG, BUY ME!) to round things out. This is a lighter card game designed by Uwe Rosenberg, the same designer who brought us Bohnanza (BGG, BUY ME!). There's some similarities with cards pulling double duty as action cards and possible point-scoring cards, making sets with these cards, super fast gameplay, and cards moving between players. Another one for the pick-it-up-eventually list. Of course, there's a medieval theme about the sheriff of Nottingham moving through a forest, and there's a delightfully mean way to set up ambushes for the other players.

The last game of the day was Carrousel (BGG, IMPORT ME). I like having a superfast game in my collection. Play, including explanation, took ten minutes, fifteen tops. Still very happy I have this.

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