Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Seven Wonders and Maori

Friday evening had two friends over for dinner and games.  Since it was Good Friday, Kathy made fettuccine with shrimp.  Jeff W. brought white wine; Rebecca E. brought strawberry chocolate mousse.  My ten-year-old serenaded us on the cello.  So how do you follow a meal like that?

With the seven wonders of the ancient world, of course.  Jeff had played 7 Wonders once before, but it was Rebecca's first time, so the first game was a learning opportunity (and a refresher for Jeff).  Rebecca had the Lighthouse at Alexandria, Jeff had the Pyramids at Giza, Kathy had the Statue of Zeus, and I had the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.  It was a great learning game, with very close final scores.  Kathy won the first game, in part by using the special ability of the Statue of Zeus to build the eight-point Temple for free.  Interestingly, no one played any significant number of green science cards in that game.

Lighthouse at Alexandria
Image courtesy of Repos Production
My experience with 7 Wonders is that once everybody has played the game one time through, all subsequent games go much quicker, and everybody seems to have a handle on what they're doing.  That was certainly true Friday night.  We randomized the wonders again for the second round, but Rebecca and Kathy ended up with Lighthouse and Zeus respectively again, and Jeff and I ended up trading Pyramids and Mausoleum.  Since everyone had neglected the green science buildings in the first game, I decided to try to capitalize on them in the second game and see how well I could do with them.  I ended up doing rather well in the sciences (two full sets of three for a total of 26 points) but grossly neglected my red military (minus six) and blue civics (one building for six points).  Rebecca, however, completely dominated the game, with strong showings in military, civics, and guilds (including the Strategist Guild, which earned her nine points - in no small part to my terrible military performance).  So, not bad for Rebecca her first time out.

(c) Rio Grande Games
Used by permission
We wrapped up the evening with Maori (designer Gunter Burkhardt, publisher Rio Grande), a game I learned in a pick-up session at Congress of Gamers a year and a half ago that has become a favorite in my family.  Each player places tiles (or "discovers islands") in his or her own array (rather like Alhambra), but with a unique tile selection mechanic.  Sixteen tiles are arranged in the center of the table, around which the players move a canoe to determine which tile to choose.  A particularly desirable tile that can't be reached for free can be obtained by spending shells (the currency of the Maori, presumably).  The objective is to obtain the most points by discovering islands with trees, huts, and completed leis, and having the most canoes and shells at the end the game.

The nice thing about Maori (pronounced MOW-ree, according to my 15-year-old Liam and dictionary.com -- not may-OH-ree, as we had thought) is that it is relatively easy to teach.  Strategy is pretty straightforward, from the standpoint of trying to commit one's tile placement in a way that maximizes the opportunity for points, while at the same time positioning the canoe that moves around the tiles in the center of the table so as to minimize the opponents' opportunity to gain the most valuable tiles.  Our game started with a lot of high-value tiles early on, with a dearth of point-scoring tiles toward the end.  It made for a rather challenging finish for all of us, and it looked as though Jeff had a very solid position to win the game, but it turned out that I outscored him by two points, primarily owing to have a completed lei (where he did not).

Most important, everyone had a great time, and we look forward to playing both these games (and others, I expect) again soon.

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