Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

New Years gaming

The holiday season continues with more socializing around boardgames.  On New Years Eve, our friend Sheila D. hosted Glenn W., Jeff W., Kathy and me for dinner and games.  After a wonderful Mexican rice bowl dinner with shredded beef, we sat down to spend the last six hours of 2013 playing games.
  • We started with Guillotine (designer Paul Peterson, artists the late Quinton Hoover along with Mike Raabe, publisher Wizards of the Coast), which is a lighthearted favorite.  I don't remember who won, but it was a great way to start the gaming evening.
  • Next was The Resistance: Avalon (designer Don Eskridge; artists Luis Francisco, George Patsouras, and Rafal Szyma; publisher Indie Boards and Cards), in which I was loyal to King Arthur.  Kathy continually accused me of being a minion of Mordred, but when our second quest failed, I knew that either she or Sheila was disloyal.  Then Glenn assigned a quest that didn't include himself, and right away I suspected him of disloyalty as well.  In the end, Jeff assigned Kathy and me to join him on a quest, and it came down to the question of trusting Kathy or Sheila (and of whether Kathy would trust me).  As it happened, Jeff chose wisely, and the knights of the round table completed our third quest to foil Mordred's schemes against King Arthur.  Resistance was the big hit of the evening - very tense and very fun.
  • We had plenty of time before the midnight New Years celebration, so we opted for a longer game, Pacific Typhoon (designer Ben Knight, artists Rodger B. MacGowan and Mark Simonitch, publisher GMT Games).  I've always appreciated this game for its historical context, as well as the negotiation and counterplay that goes on.  But I think this session confirmed something for me that became evident the last time I played PT - that it is a little longer than it needs to be for what it is.  It took us two and a half hours to play this card game that would have been fulfilling in an hour or so.  In the absence of any grand strategy, the game just doesn't need to be as long as it is.  I have some ideas for shorter variants, but I think this one will stay on the shelf for a while before I pull it out again.
  • After lifting our glasses to toast the new year at midnight, we decided on one more quick game, the hidden-identity micro-game Coup (designer Rikki Tahta, artists Luis Francisco and Jarek Nocońpublisher Indie Boards and Cards).  Sheila, Glenn, and I had played this over a lunch break one day at work, and I was glad to get it to the table with a somewhat larger group.  We had so much fun with it that we played three rounds before we finally called it a night.
On New Years Day, we got together with our friends Brion and Theresa H., who introduced us to Ladies
and Gentlemen (designer Loïc Lamy, artist Mélanie Fuentes, publisher Libellud).  I had heard of this game when Kotaku.com picked it among their top five team boardgames of all time.  We read through the rules and gave it a try, and boy what a blast it turned out to be.  Each couple formed a team, with the ladies on one side of the table and the men on the other.  The role of the ladies was to go shopping for the most elegant ensemble for the upcoming ball.  The role of us gentlemen was to earn as much money as we could in the commodities market to be able to finance our ladies' purchases.  I was vaguely reminded of Wall Street Panic, from the standpoint of the complementary and interdependent roles that the players have in the economy of the game.  The big difference, of course, is that L&G is a team game, as contrasted with the individual competition of WSP.  After six days of earning and shopping, Lady Theresa turned out to have a slightly more elegant ensemble, owing in large part to the contribution of her stable of servants (who earn bonus points for elegance under the right combinations of accoutrements).

(c) Ravensburger.  Used by permission
After L&G, we played the hidden movement fox-and-geese game Scotland Yard (artist René Habermacher, publisher Ravensburger).  We got this for Christmas last year, and it's been a solid family game.  This was my first time playing as Mr. X, and what a nerve-wracking experience it was!  Early in the game, I was pretty confident, but I miscounted the number of moves I would need to get where I wanted to be the second time I would expose myself, and I ended up much closer to the detectives than I intended to be - and somewhat trapped in terms of limited avenues of egress from my location.  By Turn 16, I was caught.

The next evening, my good friend Grant G. hosted his brother W.J., Paul R., Kyle O., Keith F., Aidan T., my son Liam, and myself for the Memoir '44: Overlord expansion "Tigers in the Snow" (designer Richard Borg, publisher Days of Wonder).  This German-vs.-Soviet World War II large-scale scenario faces off two teams of four - each with a supreme commander and sector generals for the left, center, and right.  I commanded the German left with four Tiger units, two PzKw IV units, and two units of infantry, one of which was an elite Gross Deutschland formation.  I faced Keith's Red Army infantry, backed up by a couple of artillery and ensconced in the woods.  My goal was to root out the Soviet right flank and then pressure the center, while the German central commander defended a critical village and the German right flank commander opposed the Soviet tanks attempting to form a bridgehead across a frozen river.  In general we were successful, although I lost half my Tigers by the end of the day.  The Soviets were exceedingly aggressive in the center, but our defenses around the village held, and we inflicted enough casualties on the Russians to win the battle.  I really enjoyed our game, which we finished in less than three hours, and it reignited my interest in trying to engage my son Liam in more one-on-one wargaming - as well as to make myself available for more sessions with Paul R.

Tonight we are hosting a sleepover birthday party for our 13-year-old and two of his friends, so Kathy and I engaged them in a game of Munchkin (designer Steve Jackson, artist John Kovalic, publisher Steve Jackson Games).  This is another game that is fun for what it is, even if it can run a little long.  The game tends to start slow but picks up momentum.  Fortunately, our son's friends picked up on it right away, so there wasn't much slowdown from having to explain individual cards.  Our son had a very unfortunate setback with a Hungry Backpack that kept eating all his cards, until Kathy gave him a Loaded Die so that he could make the backpack eat itself and let him back in the game.  One of his buddies was quick to wheel and deal on helping out other people, even for last pick of treasure, and it paid off - he made a run to win the game until everybody else piled on to help the monster and deny him the victory.  Unfortunately, that opened the door for Kathy, who made a similar big move the next turn.  None of us could stop her because we'd exhausted all our "backstabbing" cards, so she won the game.

So this week saw a lot of socializing and boardgames to celebrate the new year.  We had a great time, we spent time with lots of friends and family, and we got a number of games to the table that we seldom get to play.  All in all, a great way to start the year.

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