Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Holiday gaming

The holidays provide plenty of opportunity for gaming time with friends and family.  (Sadly, for all the gaming we did in the last week, I have no pictures.  What's wrong with me?)

(c) Lookout Games.  Used by permission
Last Friday our friend Theresa H. came over for a game.  We had several options, and when I described Le Havre (designer Uwe Rosenberg, artists Klemens Franz and Uwe Rosenberg, publisher Lookout Games [website in German]) as a "deeper version of Agricola," Theresa chose that to play.  We played the three-player shortened version, which has a few different buildings from the two-player that Kathy and I usually play.  This time Kathy really got her coal-coke-shipping engine going and made all kinds of money, but I was hot on the building strategy and constructed enough high-value buildings to eke out a win by five points.  Theresa made a good showing for her first game and had a good time.

Kathy's parents came into town for a short visit, and we made a point to play as many games as we reasonably could in the available time.  We introduced my mother-in-law Ag to Love Letter (designer Seiji Kanai, artists Andrew Hepworth and Jeffrey Himmelman, publisher Alderac Entertainment Group), the micro-game that is all the rage these days.  She caught on pretty quickly, but early on Kathy was some kind of clairvoyant savant, because her guards were just taking us down left and right, round after round.  Her psychic powers must have waned, though, because I ended up pulling ahead to win.

(c) Fantasy Flight Games
Used by permission
Ag remembered enjoying Citadels (designer Bruno Faidetti, numerous artists, publisher Fantasy Flight) from her last visit, so we made a point of playing that favorite hidden-identity mind game.  Kathy the Psychic Assassin struck again, and I just couldn't get any traction (or any cards for that matter, once Kathy's Magician stole the Dragon's Gate from my hand early in the game).  But it was Ag with her multiple five-point buildings and her late-game Architect play (whom Kathy insisted - correctly - that I should have assassinated) that gave my mother-in-law a commanding victory.

Because our kids like the classic word game Probe, we thought we'd try another word game as a family Christmas gift, so we picked up Word on the Street (designer Jack Degnan; artists John Kovalic, Max Winter Osterhaus, and Cathleen Quinn-Kinney; publisher Out of the Box).  We played "boys against girls," with my father-in-law Steve, oldest son Patrick, and myself squaring off against Kathy the English Ph.D. and Ag the voracious reader.  Does it sound like I'm making excuses?  Let's just say that the word on the street is that the girls crushed us.

We tried Taboo, an old party game that we used to love but hadn't pulled out in a while.  After a few rounds, though, we switched to Electronic Catch Phrase (Hasbro), which is so much easier in implementation.  It's funny, because I remember we were crazy about Taboo years ago.  The concept was simple, the easel seemed convenient, and the buzzer was a great gag.  But now that we have ECP, everything is contained in one gizmo that you just push buttons on and pass around like a crazy hot potato.  It's so much more fun and less fiddly than Taboo, which is now in our pile of games to give away.

(c) Rio Grande Games
Used by permission
After the in-laws returned to Pennsylvania, Kathy and I returned to our cocktail-hour custom with Maori (designer Gunter Burkhardt, publisher Rio Grande).*  We've played this tile-laying game often enough that we usually play with one of the variants, and this time we used the "atol" side of the player boards, which reduces the number of possible island configurations but doubles the scores of the islands inside the atol.  I had a ridiculous number of huts and a few more shells than Kathy, but she had two leis and lots of canoes.  In the end, I won by a very narrow margin.

Yesterday our son Patrick joined Kathy and me for his first game of Forbidden Island (designer Matt Leacock, artist C.B. Canga, publisher GameWright).  Patrick was the Messenger, Kathy played the Pilot, and I had the Diver.  We thought this was a strong combination, as Patrick could give cards to anyone regardless of location, and Kathy could fly to anyone and give cards.  We weren't even worried when the last earthstone space became separated from the rest of the island, since I could fly there by helicopter, steal the earthstone, and swim back.  But I got complacent about shoring up Fool's Landing, and when we got two "Waters Rise" cards on consecutive turns, the helicopter pad sank below the ocean, and with it our chance of winning.  Rats!  From hell's heart, I stab at thee, Matt Leacock!

So all in all, we got a fair amount of family gaming done in our holiday time.  We expect to do a little more gaming with friends around New Years, so it's really nice to celebrate this time in the companionship of a shared game.  A couple of years ago I posted about games played around this time of year and the social nature of gaming, and that theme certainly played strongly this year as well.

*I've since learned that Rio Grande no longer has U.S. distribution of games for Hans im Glück, the original German publisher of Maori.  As it stands, Maori is essentially unavailable in the U.S., at least until Z-Man Games, the new North American affiliate, decides to bring it back.

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