Saturday, May 24, 2008

This week's played games

No time like the present! Twenty-one plays of ten titles this week.

I've played Khet (BGG, BUY ME!) the most this week, with five total plays. I used to own the green-box Deflexxion edition with the limited gold-and-silver beamsplitter pieces (Eye of Horus; BGG, BUY ME!), but I traded it for a copy of Mayfair Cosmic Encounter. When we moved back, Margaret had her copy of Khet, so I got my hot laser action fix via someone else. But the boys have finally put out the new mezzanine expansion, the Tower of Kadesh (BGG, BUY ME!). This pushed me over the edge and I bought myself a present. Three presents, if you count the expansions. I have a special love in my heart for two-player abstract strategy games, and Khet is definitely in my top ten. Not bad for a game that made the 2006 Mensa list.

Khet ultimately reminds me of a competitive version of the vintage Black Box (BGG, WP, OOP), and is most accurately described as "Laser chess." Half your pieces have mirrors, and you must press a laser button after each move. If your laser strikes any piece where there's no mirror, it's dead. All pieces move like kings in chess, or you can rotate a piece a quarter-turn. Winner is the one who hits the other's pharaoh. The first expansion adds beamsplitters, the second expansion adds a second level, with a periscope-style tower. (CAUTION: Do not point laser into remaining eye.) The game designers, who invented the game while at Tulane University, have plans for more expansion pieces.

It's hard to argue with lasers.

A friend of mine went by a game store on the northshore and reported they had a 50% off table. I got two new games by proxy: Bamboleo (BGG, BUY ME!) and my very own copy of Set (BGG, BUY ME!), hooray! I've never played Bamboleo, but I've seen it and coveted it due to pictures alone. It is another high-quality wooden dexterity/balance game from Zoch, the sort of game that retails for $75 due to wood and weight. One could probably make a copy for oneself with twenty bucks at a hardware store, or cheaper if you have bits lying round the workshop.

Bamboleo looks a bitlike a pizza topped with wooden blocks, balanced precariously on a spire. Take turns removing a block. If it falls, you lose points. The magic comes from balancing a top a sizable cork ball with enough friction to make things interesting. Words don't do enough justice. It's a visceral delight to play this one.

I'm sad that Margaret has moved to Chi-town, but this means that I have less competition in Set.

The next most popular game I've played this week is Race for the Galaxy (BGG, BUY ME!), just like everyone and their step-ex-wife. I like it more than Puerto Rico, but maybe it's just the space theme. It's also getting popular enough in the group that I don't need to reteach it every time we play, and it is an overwhelming game to teach. Simon and I tag-teamed Allison with our explanation, which I normally don't like to do- too often when multiple people teach a game, you'll get conflicting answers or rules or reasons. It worked out this time, though.

Each time I explain this one, I'm reminded of a quotation: "When one teaches, two learn." I first heard it quoted by a character in a novel talking about martial arts and spellcasting, but it definitely applies to crazy European strategy games.

I also cracked the shrink on a game that I've had on the shelf for a while: Nexus Ops (BGG, BUY ME!). A near-stranger and newbie to BGG gave me a copy after last year's Math Trade as a thank you. I brought it along as an emergency "if more than two people show up" game, but my boy Simon expressed an interest and Germaine never showed, so bam, we played a two played game of fighting and killing and throwing dice and mining for Rubium- and who doesn't want more Rubium in their life?

Overall, I wasn't blown away and instantly in love with the game, but I did have a good time. I will admit that the dozens of fun sculpted beasties and my third-party plastic red gemstones helped a lot of the tactile and visual appeal. Mechanically, the dicefest has a few clever angles on initiative, which is worth remembering and stealing. I would definitely like to play it again with three or four, and I can really see the appeal in a light and simple wargame dicefest.

A few more of the usual suspects hit the table in the last week, too:

Bohnanza (BGG, BUY ME!), which I won and taught the lesson that it's vital to not be stingy
Category 5 (BGG, BACK IN PRINT AS SLIDE 5 BUY ME!), which I got to introduce to two new players
Carrousel (BGG, IMPORT FROM FRANCE), which I got to introduce to new players and discovered that a five-second handicap on my part is not enough
Sheepshead (BGG, WP, USE A DECK OF CARDS), which we played twice and only two people needed the cheatsheet
Die Sieben Seagal (BGG, BUY ME!), which is really starting to show its wear in the humidity
Oh Hell (BGG, WP, USE A DECK OF CARDS AND THE RULES WE USE), which will break your brain for a and or two if you play it right after DSS

Game on!

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