Among my goals at PrezCon this year was to learn Small World, which my buddy Grant Greffey is running as the Game Master. I participated in his demo for new players, which was well-attended by upwards of eight people crowded around the table. Small World is a relatively easy game to pick up. Grant is especially fond of it for its replayability. The random combinations of races and special abilities make for some dynamic game interactions.
Later that evening, we played the first heat in the tournament. I placed fourth at my table and learned (as I have so often heard but failed to incorporate) the importance of timing when it comes to placing a race into decline and starting the ascendancy of a new one. I did reasonably well with "forest orcs" in the first several turns of the game but held on too long to "wealthy wizards," whom in retrospect I should have placed into decline after just a turn or two in favor of some more effective race. The winner was Nathan Twigg, a regular face at PrezCon and a fun opponent.
The bottom line of course is that I learned how to play SW and found it to be a fun, light game.
After my exhaustive statistical analysis of Pass the Pigs and the stark realization that I am mathematically too cautious in my approach to push-your-luck games, I vowed that I would approach Can't Stop with a more aggressive style. That approach did not serve me well at all late Thursday night, where I busted on countless attempts to close out a category. I really have to spend some serious number-crunching on that game to figure out the right approach.
My friends and I have taken to meeting at midnight to play together because, you know, 14 hours of gaming can't possibly be enough for one day. So Grant, Keith F., Brian G., Tom S. and I were joined by Michelle H. (who was at my Can't Stop table) for a six-player round of Alhambra. I did abysmally poorly. It was so bad that at one point after the second scoring round, Eugene Y. (a very experienced and knowledgeable player) looked at our table and was astounded at how low the scores were - mine in particular at about nine points. He asked me if I'd ever played before, or if I even knew how to play. I told him that I'd placed in the semifinals the previous year, and he was just dumb-founded that we could have been so far into the game and have scores so low. It was about the strangest game of Alhambra I'd ever played.
After Alhambra, we still weren't satisfied, so Keith, Brian, Tom and I stayed up for a round of Citadels. None of the three of them had played a four-player round of Citadels before; Keith and Brian had only ever played three-player games. The dynamic is completely different with four players (and a better game, really) since each player gets only one role, and two roles are visible face up and known to be out of play. I built some substantial high-scoring buildings, but had only got to five districts before Keith finished with eight and won the game.
[Next post: Friday's experiences going down in flames, settling Catan, learning to acquire, and bringing more people aboard trains, planes, and automobiles]