Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

PrezCon 2012 - Part Two

Small World
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.

Can't Stop
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.

Midnight gaming
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]

Friday, February 24, 2012

PrezCon 2012 - first day

I arrived at PrezCon first thing Thursday morning to demonstrate Trains Planes and Automobiles (artist Sean Cooke, publisher Blue Square Boardgames) at 9:00 a.m.  I shared the Promenade Ballroom with the Stone Age demonstration, but perhaps the hour was too early, because no one showed for either demo.  I have two more demos scheduled this weekend - one for this afternoon, and one for tomorrow morning, so I hope to get a little more visibility for TPA in the next couple of days.

Randy Dean found himself running the Risk tournament, and he hadn't even brought his copy of the game (nor had I brought my son's), so he ran out to Target and picked up a copy of the current edition before yesterday morning's first heat started.  I had assumed, since only two hours had been scheduled for the event, that we would play the new, objective-based rules.  As it turned out, neither Randy nor any of the other players at the table had ever seen the new edition before.  They were all surprised at the arrow-shaped armies and had no interest in playing anything other than conventional Risk.  So we adapted the new-edition components to the original rules.  Since the new-edition cards don't have the 19th-century infantry-cavalry-artillery symbols for reinforcement turn-ins, Randy established the rule for this tournament that four cards yields armies on the original progressive scale of four armies for the first turn-in, six for the second, then eight, ten, 12, 15, 20, and so on by fives thereafter.

The result was an old-style game in which I started with positions in South America,  North America, and northeast Asia.  Randy got knocked out of the game by Joshua S., who took Randy's cards and ended up getting two consecutive turn-ins for armies.  In retrospect, I was in a position to try to knock off the other player at the table (whose name escapes me) to go after his cards and then face off Joshua in a super-power slugfest.  Instead, I tried to knock down Joshua first, which I didn't yet have the strength to do.  At the height of my position on the board, I controlled Europe, North America, and South America, while Joshua was holed up in Africa and the other player in Australia with a stronghold in southeast Asia.  But I couldn't deliver the knock out, and Joshua was able to get another big turn-in, break out of Africa, and take me out of the game.  At that point, the other player conceded the game, and Joshua won the heat.

Our game did in fact exceed two hours, so I was unable to make the first heat of Down in Flames.  I expect to play that later this morning.

Although the session was fun in its own right, I stand by my often-repeated position that the newer edition of Risk is a much better game.  I don't expect to return to any later heats of the tournament here at PrezCon.

Command and Colors Napoleonics
I attended a demo of Command and Colors Napoleonics in my effort to learn at least one new game and to play at least one wargame this year.  C&CN appears to be a more complex iteration on the series of Richard Borg card-driven wargames.  It includes the attached-leaders element of Battle Cry (as you might expect in a 19th-century wargame) as well as some of the command card innovations and unit-type specialties of Memoir '44.  The handling of infantry vs. cavalry seems particularly interesting, as well as the counter-strike element of close combat.

Unfortunately, my schedule did not allow me to participate in the tournament itself.  It may have been just as well.  Again, the game master was thrown into the event at practically the last minute, so he made the decision that the tournament would be handled as a single-elimination event.  My limited experience in competitive play suggests that a single-elimination format is not well suited for a two-player game, but I didn't stick around to find out how well it went.

A Few Acres of Snow
At the adjacent table to the C&CN event, my friend Keith F. was trying his hand at the hot new game A Few Acres of Snow.  What was disappointing to him, though, is that the game master, Bruce Reiff, told participants that AFAoS is "a broken game," that the British player can not be stopped if he uses a strategy called "The Halifax Hammer," and that even three or four recent game modifications to mitigate the problem do not fix the game.  Although Bruce felt that the game was not well suited for competition, he continued to run the event "for fun" and to teach it to newcomers like Keith to familiarize them with it.  Keith ended up playing as the British against a very experienced player; I think his experiences with it were mixed.  He said the comparison many people make to Dominion holds up as deck-building wargame.  For my part, the bottom line of this event is that I am taking AFAoS off my wishlist.

Chicago Express
I got very excited about Chicago Express when Kathy and I played with our friends Sheila D., Keith R., Rebecca E., and Jeff W. some weeks ago.  It struck me then as the perfect capitalist game in which players invest in railroad companies and direct their development in an attempt to maximize income and make the most money.

I got to play in the first heat of the tournament here yesterday against Jim [missed his last name], Pat D., and Demy McB.  As it happens, Jim and Pat had played once before each, and Demy had never played before (but is a quick learner, as I've played her in a number of other games over the years), so the level of competition was fairly even among us.  I ended up owning three of five shares of the New York Central plus one share of the Pennsylvania Railroad, and I won the game in a fairly close finish.

[More entries to follow as time allows, and I will add pictures, links, and details to this entry as well.  PrezCon continues...]

Monday, February 20, 2012

Personal Pre-PrezCon

PrezCon open gaming and pre-cons started this evening (President's Day, hence the name), though I won't be arriving there in Charlottesville, Virginia, until Thursday morning.  But I had the opportunity to play a lot of games this weekend in a kind of home-style pre-PrezCon warm-up.

My son's red empire extends from
Buenos Aires to the ends of Asia
My 15-year-old's friend from Maryland spent the weekend with us, so Saturday afternoon started off with a reprise of our three-player Risk session from last July.  Last time, my son and his friend got pre-occupied with Asian occupation, and I ended up achieving an objective in each of the first three turns and winning the game in short order.  This time, I was not so fortunate, and they were not so inattentive.  My capitol was in New Guinea, and my dice luck prevented me from seizing control of Australia in the first turn.  It was all slow going from there.  My son gained control of South America and Africa, his friend dominated Europe, and I could do little more than throw roadblocks in the path of one and then the other.  Eventually my son rolled up the "Control two continents," "Control 18 territories," and "Control Asia" objectives to win the game.  I definitely prefer Risk (designer Rob Daviau, publisher Hasbroin the new objective-based format (rather than the old-style player-elimination global-domination victory condition).  I haven't decided whether to throw my hat into the Risk tournament at PrezCon, though.

That evening my wife and I played a two-player game of 7 Wonders (designer Antoine Bauza, artist Miguel Coimbra, publisher Repos Production).  It's not quite the same crazy free-for-all that a four- or five-player game can be, but it's still a nice way for us to pass the time.  She had the Hanging Gardens of Babylon; I had the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus.  I won by a fairly narrow margin, as I recall.

Image (c) Mayfair Games.  Used by
permission.  All rights reserved
Yesterday, our friend Sue C. came to join us for a couple of days, and we started with Cities and Knights of Catan (designer Klaus Teuber; artists Volkan Baga, Harald LieskeFranz Vohwinkel, and Stephen Walsh; publisher Mayfair), an expansion that I actually prefer to the original Settlers of Catan but which requires considerable familiarity to play.  Maybe I can develop some interest in C&KoC among my gaming friends.  With barbarians, knights, walls, commodities, city developments, and progress cards in lieu of development cards, the game takes on a richer level of complexity.  Dice luck is still a factor, but sound planning counts for a lot.  Kathy kept me from building a settlement on a contended road junction by occupying the corner with a knight.  Although I had a more powerful knight on the same road network, I hesitated to spend precious wheat to displace her knight and then have to move my knight out of the way again to make room for a new settlement.  My hesitation cost me in the end; she ended up building the settlement there instead, which left me to have to build new roads elsewhere and develop less productive locations.  Ultimately it was Sue, however, who stole Kathy's longest road and ended up winning, despite my late-game move to build a cathedral and get within two points of victory myself.

Next was Citadels (designer Bruno Faidutti, numerous artists, publisher Fantasy Flight Games), always a favorite of mine, and one that Kathy had never played three-player before.  I think that assassins and thieves are particularly dangerous in the three-player version, because when the roles pass around the second time, each player knows two roles that have definitely been chosen by someone - so the assassin and thief can guarantee that a target is in play.  I ended up running away with the win this time, in part because of an excellent hand at the start of the game.  Although I think Citadels is primarily a game of getting inside your opponent's head, card luck is still a considerable factor.

Box cover image courtesy
of Rio Grande Games
Today we opened with another favorite, Puerto Rico (designer Andreas Seyfarth, artist Franz Vohwinkel, publisher Rio Grande).  Kathy and I seldom get to play it in its original intended format of three to five players.  I had a pretty strong engine going with corn, sugar, and coffee, plus a factory and office that helped with the cash flow.  Kathy put her hospice to good use (as she likes to do), ending up with three occupied quarries that enabled her to pick up the fortress and capitalize on her excess population.  Despite one captain phase that saw me spoil a ton of product, I was able to eke out a one-point victory, helped by the guild hall.

After Sue left this afternoon, Kathy and I enjoyed our customary cocktail hour with a game of Ingenious (designer Reiner Knizia, publisher Fantasy Flight Games), which was a PrezCon acquisition last year and which I still appreciate both for its elegant gameplay and for its aesthetic appeal.  Kathy won, as she often does.  Although tile draw luck is a factor, I think Kathy did a better job keeping an eye on my scoring track and anticipating what I needed to do better than I did on hers.

So I got to spend this three-day weekend sharpening my teeth on some friendly competition before heading to Charlottesville later in the week.  I have to admit that I'm a lot better prepared to go have fun than I am to beat anybody; I think I'm a far cry from winning anything at the tournament level of competition that I expect to encounter.  But heck, it's all about having fun, meeting people, learning new games, and engaging with other designers and publishers.  I expect to do plenty of all of that.

Friday, February 17, 2012

PrezCon: The first casualty of battle is the plan

PrezCon!  I get excited just thinking about the name.  My favorite convention.  So convenient to northern Virginia, such a friendly and yet competitive gaming community.

I felt a little burnt out after five solid days of PrezCon last year, so this day I'm going for just four days; I'll arrive on Thursday and go through Sunday.  My gaming friends Keith F., Brian G., and Tom S. will arrive a day ahead of me, on Wednesday.  My buddy Grant plans to arrive in time for the first events on Monday evening and stay the entire seven days.  Hard core, baby.  I don't know how people do a solid week of intense boardgaming.  People like that must pace themselves better than I do.

Excerpt of my PrezCon
schedule ... for now ...
Every year I go to the PrezCon website and agonize over the schedule.  Every year I carefully prioritize my gaming preferences and put together a perfectly-crafted sequence of events that will take me from breakfast to midnight of solid gaming for the duration of my stay.  And it seems that every year my plan flies out the window within two hours of arrival.  I always seem to get re-directed to some new discovery and find myself playing something I never thought I'd try.  I think that's the magic of a game convention - the impetuous spontaneity of pick-up games and demos and vendors and auctions.  Grant said he's given up on even trying to make a plan.  He just plays as the spirit moves him.  All the world is his gaming table, and all of us merely opponents...

I've written this before, but I'm not afraid to repeat myself.  The best advice I ever got when approaching PrezCon came from Convention Director Justin Thompson:  "Learn at least one new game; buy at least one new game."  I have three demos in mind for games that I want to learn this year:
  • Acquire
  • Small World
  • Command and Colors: Napoleonics
1976 3M Edition
I'd actually seen a demo of Acquire (designer Sid Sackson, artist Kurt Miller, publisher Wizards of the Coast) once before, at my very first PrezCon, and bought a copy on eBay shortly thereafter, but never got a chance to bring it to the table.  But when Little Metal Dog Show explained why Acquire deserves the title of a "stone cold classic," he reminded me of how much I liked what I saw in that game years ago.  So now I'm going to blow the dust off the box and get reacquainted with this Sid Sackson masterpiece.

Grant is running Small World (designer Philippe Keyaerts, artist Miguel Coimbra, publisher Days of Wonder) at PrezCon, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never actually sat down and played the game before.  So I'm setting SW as a specific "learning goal" for PrezCon this year.

Cover Design by
Rodger B. MacGowan
Copyright ©2010
I also want to get my hand back into wargaming.  Now, the Richard Borg series of historical strategy games (Battle Cry, Memoir '44, Command and Colors: Ancients, Battle Lore) aren't exactly the kind of hard core Avalon Hill / SPI wargames I grew up on, but they will scratch the itch for now.  And I haven't done Napoleonics in a very long time, so Command and Colors: Napoleonics (designer Richard Borg, artist Rodger MacGowan, publisher GMT) seems like a good new title to learn.

As for buying at least one new game, well, I'll bring my wishlist, but there's no telling what I'll come home with.  Here's my top seven, in no particular order:
  • Fairy Tale
  • Le Havre
  • Chicago Express
  • Traders of Carthage
  • Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War
  • High Frontier
  • Saint Petersburg
Finally, of course, I'll be demonstrating Trains Planes and Automobiles three times at PrezCon.  I've mentioned before that PrezCon has a special place in my heart as the place I sold TPA two years ago, so it's nice to come back and show it off as a finished product.  The family game format is a little off the conventional PrezCon path, but I'm hopeful that for a few people, it will be the new game they learned at PrezCon, and maybe one or two will even pick up a copy.  I just want people to have fun playing it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The game of marriage ...

... or (to paraphrase the immortal question posed in the introduction to The Odd Couple) "Can two people live together without driving each other crazy?"

Today I direct you to the blog of my lovely wife, K.B.Owen Mysteries, where she and I exchanged, you know, "observations" on each other's behaviors, those little things that make life together, well, interesting.  I hope you get a chuckle out of it.

As you read it, bear in mind that this is the lovely face that gazes at me from across the dining table and smiles sweetly just before she crushes me to fine grains of dust in Agricola, or Jaipur, or Citadels...

Friday, February 10, 2012

Gold on Mars: It's been done

The game that burst
my bubble
I was doing some market research today for my "Gold on Mars" game concept, and I've made that heart-sinking discovery that somebody has already done what I had in mind, better than I could have done it myself.  High Frontier (designer and artist Phil Eklund, publisher Sierra Madre) seems to have all the elements I wanted to manifest in "Gold on Mars," but (based on reviews) better than the prototype I've been crafting.

So, bottom line, I'll have to get a copy of HF.  It looks like fun.

*Heavy sigh*  Meanwhile, back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Discovering Bohnanza

On business travel, I had the opportunity to visit long-time friend Stephen Craig and his wife Shelly.  Stephen had recently brought his prototypes of "Off to College" and "Staples" to UnPub2 and come back with a number of suggestions and ideas to work on.  But after a nice spaghetti dinner, the game that Stephen and Shelly really wanted to bring to the table was a card game I'd read many good things about but never played - Bohnanza (designer Uwe Rosenberg, artist Bjorn Pertoft, publisher Rio Grande).

I'm a big fan of Uwe R. because of Agricola, and I look forward to trying Le Havre sometime soon when I have the opportunity.  Bohnanza is in a completely different category, though, and I was surprised to see that Uwe R. had designed it.  At first glance, I was reminded more of Empyrean Inc. than anything else, but even that comparison is weak.  I'd read a number of reviews of Bohnanza, and while they were largely enthusiastic, none was particularly positive on it as a two-player game, so I hadn't really given it much thought.

Based on our session this evening, though, I've bumped it up on my wish list.  Bohnanza is a clever little game of shifting relative values among cards and tight decision constraints.  A lot of the fun is in the wheeling and dealing to trade off unwanted bean types for better prospects.  Whereas we tended to play a semi-cooperative, "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" approach, I can see how this game could be very cut-throat in a competitive environment (like a tournament).  As a social gamer, I appreciated the "benevolent negotiator" approach that we took at the table this evening.

I would imagine that a lot of the fun elements would be muted in a two-player game, which has no trading, but Stephen and Shelly insist that they have a lot of fun just playing the two of them.  Their copy of the game is "well-loved," which shows that it has had a lot of play.  So I think Kathy and I will have to give this a look.  Many thanks for Stephen and Shelly for turning us on to this new discovery!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Chicago Express: Where has this game been all my life?

I gave our good friends Sheila and Keith a copy of Chicago Express (designer Harry Wu, artist Michael Menzel, publisher Queen Games) for a wedding gift.  I had never played before, but I was looking for something suitable for two to six players - something they could play together as a couple but that our occasional "game night" group of friends could play as well.  CE came up pretty high on the boardgamegeek rankings, and the reviews looked promising, so it felt safe as a gift choice.

Sheila and Keith hosted a dinner party last night, and we got to play a six-player session.  None of us had ever played before, so I read the rules beforehand.  The game struck me as the perfect implementation of capitalism in game form.  Railroad company shares are sold at auction.  Company dividends are distributed among shareholders based on earnings.  Stockholders - or board members, if you like - direct the investment of capital raised from the sale of shares to invest in railroad expansion and development to improve the company's earnings.  I have never played an 18xx railroad game, but I have the impression that CE is a kind of "18xx light."

We had a really great time with this game.  I was very pleased that it was a relatively easy game for all of us to learn even though we had no one at the table who had played before.  (The only open rules question for us was whether money is "hidden" or "open"; the boardgamegeek consensus seems to be that money in any game is open unless the rules specifically provide for hiding it, as in St. Petersburg.)  I think as we played, we all overbid pretty heavily for stock certificates.  More players chasing a fixed number of shares, which were the only source of income - supply and demand at its finest.  We had so many auctions that three railroads had only just reached Pittsburgh when Rebecca triggered game end with an auction of the last share of the New York Central after the Pennsylvania and B&O had already sold out.

Part of what struck me about this game is a complete absence of luck.  I didn't really think about it until the game was over, but there is not a single card draw, dice roll, or bag pull in the entire game.  As one reviewer mentions, the only "random" element (if you can call it that) is the seating order around the table and determination of starting player.  The rest of the game is determined entirely by the decisions of the players at the table.  Even more than Puerto Rico (which I consider a brilliant design), CE is entirely in the hands of the players.

The more I think about CE, the more excited I am about it.  I've put it on my "must have" short list.

1962 3M edition
Rebecca mentioned that CE reminded her of Acquire.  I have only played Acquire once, at PrezCon, and I loved it enough to buy it on eBay, but haven't had the opportunity to play since.  I had recently read mention of Acquire when Little Metal Dog Show called it "a stone-cold classic" in a post about ten days ago.  Rebecca and I agreed that we should bring it to the table at our next opportunity.  Since that conversation, I ran across an interesting boardgamegeek thread comparing the two games.  This is another game that I need to bring out soon.

So many games, so little time.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Games for four-year-olds

[This is a re-post of an entry originally published on 2 February 2012. The post was somehow corrupted, so I am restoring it for accessibility.] 

I was recently asked about games for very young kids.  I haven't looked at games in this age range in a while (since our youngest is eleven), so it was interesting to revisit the gamescape for the booster-seat set.

We still have two in our house that our kids enjoyed back before kindergarten:

Husker Du is essentially Concentration in a kid-friendly format.  The board consists of a number of small round "windows" through which symbols on a single rotating disc are visible.  Game set-up consists of covering the windows with checkers, then rotating the disc so that new symbols are lined up in the windows under the checkers.  Players remove checkers two at a time looking for matching symbols.  If they match, they keep the checkers; if not, the checkers cover the symbols again.  An old standard memory game, always a good parent-child past-time.

Launch Across is a cross between table-top basketball and Connect Four.  Each player has a launcher that propels colored balls against a backboard and down into one of several stacking columns.  The first to get four in a straight line row (horizontal, diagonal, or vertical) wins.  I'm not usually a fan of dexterity games, but this one is entertaining.

A search of the boardgamegeek.com database turned up a number of good options that are still available on the market:
  • "Animal Upon Animal is a simple stacking game, listed for ages 4-99, with 29 cute wooden animals."
  • Kids of Carcassone is a tile-laying game patterned after the phenomenally popular Carcassonne with simpler dynamics but, according to some parent reviews, engaging gameplay.
  • "Viva Topo! is a [roll-and-move] family game that has players balancing risk and rewards as they attempt to outrun the cat and score for cheese. Players attempt to advance their mice to various goals. The further the goal, the more cheese it is worth. Pursuing the mice is the cat that removes the mice from the game should it catch the mice.  Movement is regulated by a die that also moves the cat. Initial cat moves are only 1 space, but become 2 spaces after once around the track, so when the cat speeds up, it's almost all over!"

  • Boo Who? (originally Geistertreppe, now available as Spooky Stairs) has a clever feature in which players' pieces are magnetic and become hidden by "ghost" pieces over the course of the game.  Players try to remember where their pieces are and get them to the top of the castle stairs to win.
  • "Being afraid of monsters is a normal part of growing up.  Go Away Monster! encourages kids to conquer that fear by acting it out and taking control.  It also lets them experience some of the apprehension and excitement in deciding what is real and what is imaginary.  Reach in the bag to find the puzzle pieces that fit your bedroom game board. Try to distinguish between the different puzzle pieces and decide which one feels like the size and shape of a piece you need. If you pull out a monster, don't be scared... You take charge, and the monsters will take off!"
I'd be curious to know what other games have become family favorites among parents of the pre-school generation.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A couple of funny little card games

As a get-well gift, a friend gave our convalescing family member the card game Angry Birds (Mattel), based rather tangentially on the popular app.  As games go, it's largely a function of dice and card luck, but it's a fun diversion with young kids.  We played a three-player round this evening, and we got some good laughs out of it.

Kathy's winning manipulation of the
time continuum in Chrononauts
Because Angry Birds went so quickly, Kathy and I then turned to another card game with a different bent of humor, Chrononauts (designer Andrew Looney, artist Alison Frane, publisher Looney Labs).  We like this game as an interesting twist on the Fluxx line of shifting victory condition card games that Looney Labs has put out.  As time travellers, we saved the lives of Abraham Lincoln, the Archduke Ferdinand, and John Lennon.  Kathy (as "Timmy") managed to travel back to 1918 when, thanks to the Archduke Ferdinand's narrow escape, Europe had avoided a destructive war, enabling her to "patch" the timeline with a European economic boom.  Then she traveled ahead to 1980 and saved the life of John Lennon from his would-be assassin.  She then traveled on to 1999 and engineered Senator Lennon's success in passing a Constitutional Amendment to repeal the Second Amendment and institute a nationwide gun ban.

Although some of the alternate timelines in Chrononauts are a bit tortured, the game itself is fun.  Besides manipulating history, the game can be won by collecting artifacts from history (or the future), some of which make me laugh every time I see them (such as the "Obvious Forgery of the Mona Lisa," depicted with a mustache).  The fairly simple gameplay features some tricky decision-making and risk-taking, which makes for a good overall card game.