Sunday, February 19, 2006

Games Played February 18, 2006

One key to happiness – GAMES

The whole family was together again for food, conversation, and games.

First game we played was an old card game we have had for many years – The Last Card. I wrote recently about this game, pointing out that we had played it by a different rule interpretation than the one described by Mike Schuller (mike86) on BoardGameGeek. We decided to start the games with this card game. We had played the game only seven times in the past five years, and not since December 2002. We played five hands, so each person dealt once, and the results were: Mason – 178, Dan – 177, me - 132, Katrina – 112, and Sue – 88. That was quite a spread of scores. Like most card games, you can play perfectly, but if you don’t have the right cards, you can’t make many points. Of course, probably no one plays perfectly, so there might have been some missed opportunities. As Mike indicated, there is more strategy to this game than appears on the surface. Katrina said she has always enjoyed this game, and she holds the record score for us of 260, while I have not enjoyed it and hold the record low score of 83. Perhaps that’s why she likes it, and I don’t. We do prefer playing with Mike’s interpretation and will do so in the future. I’m not certain it will see much playing time, because it just doesn’t compare in our minds with games like For Sale, Boomtown, Mu, and Hearts, but at least we will not toss it out of the house.

Speaking of Boomtown, that was our next game. Joel played this game last weekend with us, when Mason was away skiing, and he loved it. The box says it’s for 2-5 players, but the deck of auction cards totals 60 cards, and there are no markers or other restricting elements that prevent 6 players from playing it. We tried it with all six of us, and it was as much fun as with five. I really enjoy this game, although I have not done well in competition with the family. The results were: Katrina – 70, Dan - 63, Mason - 52, Sue - 46, Joel - 40, and me – 31. That is a significant spread for this game, I think. Katrina was more than double my score, as was Dan. Shame on me! I do enjoy playing it; I just need to get better at it. Katrina told Joel, after the game, that she has a winning strategy, which she whispered to him. The rest of us are still in the dark. I would not be surprised to see Joel win next time; I’m sure he will request that game next weekend. I haven’t developed a theory about how to win this game, yet. I can see that if a Saloon comes out reasonably early, it’s a good idea to select it, and the Governor can pay off well. I had a terrible start, with only two mines, both “3.” I also ended up with the New Vein card on one of them. I then managed to get the Telegraph, but did not play it when I should have. When I realized that I had missed at least one opportunity to change a die roll to get a “3” total, I then had to wait several turns before I could do so again. By that time, Joel had Dynamited one of my “3” mines, which cut down considerably the effect when I used the Telegraph. All-in-all, I was certainly not on top of my game for Boomtown.

Next on the agenda was Through the Desert. Out of three plays of this in our group, Katrina has won twice (and holds the scoring record), and Sue won the other game. Results: Katrina – 72, Mason – 58, Dan – 57, me – 56, and Sue – 49. Sue had some difficulty getting to some oases, which hurt her score. I started off with a long caravan of purple camels, and I figured I would have no problem scoring for the longest string in that color. However, by the end of the game, I had been boxed in, and someone else beat me by one or two in that color. The other color I tried for also got boxed in. I can see that I need to work to keep some spaces available for a longer time period. I was very fortunate to have the score I did, since I was the only one with no points for longest caravan. I made up for those, to some degree, with a good enclosed area and with lots of 3-value waterholes, as well as connecting all my caravans to at least one oasis. TtD is a fun, fast-playing game for five people. The board certainly gets crowded by the time the game ends, which makes it very challenging.

We finished the day with all seven of us playing Bohnanza. This can be a madcap game, with seven vocal people, each trying to outbid the others to trade for a bean card that the current active player has available. Some of the trades look odd, until the player making the trade plants on his next turn, but usually it makes sense at that time. This is one card game in which negotiating and trading can go far to overcome a bad card draw. There are frequently many opportunities to trade for cards you want, and at the same time, to get cards out of your hand that you do not want to plant later. We are also not reluctant to donate a bean card to someone else, if that card would be an impediment to future plans. We never purchase the third bean field. After doing so a few times, we found that the harvest return seldom paid for the field before the game was over (with seven players, it doesn’t take long to go through the cards twice). We do not use the suggested rules for dealing cards for seven players. We use the same rules as for five players, but add the coffee beans and take out the garden and cocoa beans. We deal the same number of cards to each player in the beginning, and the active player draws only three cards at the end of this turn. In our experience, this works as well for 6-7 players as it does for 4-5. The game moves very fast; it’s loud; it’s a little wild; there is some funny negotiating; and we all have a great time at it. It is one of the few games Natalia will play with all of us. Dan and Katrina say that when they play 4-handed at home, Joel and Natalia almost always win and frequently finish 1-2. I know the parents do not throw the games or go easy on the kids; Joel and Natalia are just very good at this game. Our results: Mason and Sue (tied) – 10; Joel and me (tied) – 9; Natalia and Dan (tied) – 8; Katrina – 7. Now, that’s a close game!

So, “a good time was had by all,” once again.

I didn’t push for playing a new game this week, although I’m really getting antsy to play one of the five new games we haven’t tried (Australia, Hacienda, Station Master, Alhambra, and Cartagena). Of course, I also really want to re-play several of our newer games, such as Tongiaki, Around the World in 80 Days, and Princes of Florence. Too Many Games, Too Little Time!

--- Gerald … near Denver, Colorado; February 2006
aka gamesgrandpa -- A grandpa who is a mile high on gaming


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