Friday, March 31, 2006

Games Played March 25, 2006

One key to happiness – GAMES

Another great day of family gaming – well, except for one thing: I NOW HAVE THE DUBIOUS HONOR OF OWNING THE LONGEST LOSING STREAK FOR THE ENTIRE FAMILY, SINCE WE STARTED KEEPING RECORDS OVER FIVE YEARS AGO!! Ahhh --- got that out of my system.

The good news is that we did play a new game – Alhambra. It went over very well; everyone seemed to enjoy it. I think it will see more playing time this year. I consider it a simpler version of Princes of Florence. When I mentioned that, Katrina suggested we should play PoF again. I know she won PoF the second time we played it (Sue won the only other time we played), but I didn’t realize she actually liked it that much. So, maybe I’ll pull out PoF soon. Back to Alhambra – we had no problems with the rules (assuming we didn’t misunderstand anything). We did have to remind ourselves at the end of the game that each player got points for his/her longest stretch of castle wall, rather than only one person getting the points, as in Ticket to Ride’s longest stretch of track. I’m glad everyone liked it; I think it will be a good game for the family. Results: Mason first place with 81 points; Katrina second; me third; Sue fourth; Joel fifth; Dan last. Dan usually either wins a new game the first time we play, or is in last place – one extreme or the other. If he doesn’t win it the first time out, he probably will soon be the winner. He has a good sense of game strategy. At the same time, Mason is just really difficult to beat at any game, and he often does well on the first time for a new game. He continues to have a big lead in overall victories in our family gaming records.

All seven of us played Bohnanza, with the usual fun time. Natalia finally won a 7-player game of this. She always does well, but has never been the winner before, so it was a neat victory for her. Results: Natalia first; Joel second; Katrina third; Mason, Dan, Sue, and me (tied) fourth. It was a very interesting finish. The two youngest players finished first and second, with Katrina right behind them, and with the rest of us tied for fourth.

Carcassonne remains a family favorite, with frequent plays. This time, it was a female game, with Katrina and Sue leading the way. The usual winners are Mason and Dan, but the women are gaining on them. Results: Katrina first; Sue second; me third; Dan fourth; Mason fifth. Mason very rarely finishes last in any game, so this was quite a surprise. What happened to the usual winners? Well, they each started building a city, and the cities were very near each other. Soon, they were connected, and the fellows figured they would build a huge metropolis and score bigtime. Unfortunately for them, their city was built around an empty space that needed to be filled in order to complete it. Guess which two players could never draw the right tile, while the rest of us drew those tiles often. Naturally, none of us gave any serious thought to finishing it for them. Because the city contained a cathedral (playing with the Inns and Cathedrals expansion, as we always do), the incomplete city garnered absolutely no points for them, and tied up meeples for both of them. Lesson learned, -- maybe…

An offer to play Nertz (the game we call Hell, because that’s the title we learned when we were taught this game) brought Natalia to the table again. This is one of her favorite games. Although she usually does well, she had never won a 7-player game of this. Ah, but it was her game this time. Results: Natalia first; Joel second; Katrina third; Mason and Sue tied fourth; me sixth; Dan last. Another challenging game with the two youngest players in first and second, and their mother third. Hmmmmmmm – what are the odds?

It seems we can rarely have a game day without Settlers of Catan, and this was no exception. Mason and Dan “own” this game – they each have won it 16 times; Katrina was in third place for victories with 6, while Sue and I have 5 each, and Joel has 2. I’m fairly certain this is Mason’s favorite game, and he really wants to pull ahead of Dan again in victories. So, he always wants to play Settlers. But, this was Katrina’s day to win. I was surprised to find I was in second place when it was all over; I didn’t think I was doing that well. Results: Katrina first; me second; Mason, Sue, Dan tied third; Joel last. Joel has won this game twice, playing against the adults, but it has been a while since he last won. He does enjoy the game, though.

I sort of forced everyone to play Tongiaki again. I like this game, although I haven’t studied it enough to know how to play it well. The first time we played (in February), Joel and Katrina tied for first. This time, Katrina finished last ------- but Joel won it again. Unfortunately, Katrina says she doesn’t really like this game, so it may not be on the “often-played” list for us. Oh well… Results: Joel first; Sue second; Dan and me (tied) third; Mason fifth; Katrina last.

The finishes were interesting. Mason won one game, which was unusual only in that he usually wins more than one. Natalia won two, Katrina won two, and Joel won one. Sue, Dan, and I could finish no better than second place in any game. The amazing news for Natalia was winning two games she had not won in the past -- great day for her. Unfortunately for me, I haven’t yet won a family game that counts in the records in 2006. Surely, surely this losing streak must end!

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

Friday, March 24, 2006

Games Played March 17-20, 2006

One key to happiness – GAMES

Our family (except for Mason) went to Estes Park, Colorado, for the weekend, with the beginning of school spring break for Dan, Katrina, Natalia, and Joel. We stayed in a really neat cabin and had a great time, including playing a number of games. I managed to win two games, but they won’t count on our family statistics, since Mason wasn’t there. Oh, well…

Natalia is not our big game-enthusiast, but she did play For Sale (three times), Bohnanza, and Fill or Bust with us. Friday night was Natalia’s first time to play For Sale, and she had “beginner’s luck.” In the first game, she and Dan tied for first, Joel and Sue tied for third, Katrina was fourth, and I was last (not a good start for me for the weekend). The second game of For Sale resulted in Natalia winning outright, with Dan second, Joel and Sue tied (again) for third, Katrina was fourth, and guess who was last (again). We played the third game of For Sale two days later, and the outcome was quite different. Sue was first, Katrina and I tied for second, Natalia was fourth, and Dan was last (Joel didn’t play that time). I think Natalia will be willing to play this game whenever we are playing it. Too bad we can’t play with seven players, although I suppose we could take out a few property and check cards and make it work (I’ll have to think about that). We do find that many games designed for a maximum of five players can be fun with six or even seven, and we like to include everyone who is interested in playing.

Saturday afternoon, Dan, Joel, and I decided to take on Lord of the Rings Risk. Now, I am definitely not a fan of regular Risk, and I’ve not had an opportunity to play any other Risk variation, but I do find LotR Risk an okay game. Well, of course I like it – I won the game, with Joel second and Dan last. We played with the Ring moving to Mount Doom and ending the game when it reached there. Several times during the game, the Ring only moves if a die roll is 3 or higher. The Ring progressed steadily until it was ready to be destroyed at the end. Joel rolled the die each time for the Ring movement, and unbelievably he rolled a 2 three times in a row with the game ready to end, so we played three more rounds than we expected to. A lot of desperate battles took place in those three rounds, and I was lucky enough to be the last player of the rounds, so when Joel finally rolled something higher than a 3, I managed to win. By that time, we were all ready for it to be over!

We were expecting and got about 4 or 5 inches of snow Saturday night and Sunday, so we had planned to spend most of the day in the cabin. We did go outside, built a snowman, had a long snowball fight, walked along the river for a ways, and then returned to game playing. However, before we ventured out, Dan, Katrina, and Joel played Through the Desert. Results: Dan, Katrina, Joel. Joel has really gotten interested in TtD, although he has only played a couple of times. So, he and Dan played a game later, and Joel won 114-100. He is really some game-player!

After having fun in the snow, we played Ticket to Ride. I drew some lucky tickets, for a change, and managed to have almost no competition in the west. Dan and Katrina seemed to be constantly blocking each other in their efforts to complete tickets. Poor Joel had all kinds of problems making the connections he needed, and ended with a couple of tickets not completed, which really hurt his score. Results: I was first, Sue was second, Katrina was third, Dan was fourth, and Joel was last, and none of our scores were close; we were really spread out on the scoring track. Usually, we have much closer scores; you just never know how these games are going to end up, which keeps them interesting to us.

Natalia joined us for a 6-player game of Bohnanza. As usual, it was a wild game, with lots of constant trading going on. Talk about a tight game – Sue, Natalia, and Katrina tied for first, I was fourth, Joel was fifth, and Dan was last. What is this – a females’ game? It certainly was that time, anyway.

We’ve taken a liking to Boomtown (well, Katrina says she doesn’t like it that much, but she usually wins or finishes highly). Joel really enjoys it, and the results reflected that. Joel was first, Katrina was second, Dan was third, I was fourth, and Sue was last.

We decided to try Fill or Bust. It had been a long time since we last played it. Joel hit a 1-2-3-4-5-6 straight to end the game, although I almost managed to beat him on my last turn, before busting. Result: Joel was first, I was second, Natalia was third, Sue was fourth, Katrina was fifth, and Dan was last.

The last game I recall being played was a 2-player game of Carcassonne: The City, between Dan and Katrina. They both enjoy that game and play it from time to time. In this one, Katrina was the winner.

We didn’t all play the same number of games, and it was certainly not a sweep of victories for anyone. During the weekend, these were our finishes:

Joel – 3 firsts, 1 second, 3 thirds, 2 fifths
Natalia – 3 firsts, 1 third, 1 fourth
Katrina – 2 firsts, 3 seconds, 1 third, 3 fifths
Dan – 2 firsts, 3 seconds, 2 thirds, 1 fourth, 1 fifth, 1 sixth
Sue – 2 firsts, 1 second, 2 thirds, 1 fourth, 1 fifth
Me – 2 firsts, 2 seconds, 2 fourths, 2 sixths

Everyone won at least 2 games, which was really neat. We are very evenly balanced in our game-playing, which makes our three-generation games lots of fun.

So, it was a great weekend, with good home-cooked food, fun in the snow, and lots of time spent reading and playing games. The last time we did this, most of us were sick for most of the weekend, so we were very happy that we all stayed healthy this time.

Okay, I need to get into the right frame of mind for tomorrow’s family gaming. If I don’t win a game tomorrow, I will own the worst losing streak in our family gaming history! I’ve been thinking about what game to suggest, to end my losing streak. The game I hardly ever lose is Hugger-Mugger, but there’s no chance of that one making the table tomorrow, since Mason is not a fan of it, and I don’t think Sue and Katrina really care too much for it. Oh, well, maybe luck will come my way in some other game…

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

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Games Played March 11, 2006

One key to happiness – GAMES

I have good news, and I have bad news.

The good news is that I FINALLY won a game in 2006.

The bad news is that it doesn’t count in our family gaming records. I won a 4-player game of Hearts, but since Mason had to leave early and didn’t play this game, it doesn’t count as a win for me. We only count games played at least by all five adults.

So, my unblemished record of losses continues. If I don’t win a 5- or 6- or 7-player game in the next two weekends, I will acquire the title of “Biggest Loser” of our family gaming history. Okay, now, this must be just a bad dream. I know, I’ll close my eyes and click my heels together three times, and everything will be fine ----- click, click, click. ------- Well, that didn’t work. I know – I must think positive thoughts. Every cloud has a silver lining; There’s light at the end of the tunnel; Things are never as bad as they might seem; Let a smile be my umbrella; Accentuate the positive; Keep a stiff upper lip; Things could always be worse. ------ Oh, yeah, that helped a WHOLE lot. {sniff, sniff, sniff}

I may not have won a family game yet in 2006, but I’m still having a good time playing. Yesterday, we got in five short games, since Mason needed to leave early. Alphabetically, they were: Around the World in 80 Days; Bohnanza; Hunters and Gatherers; Oh Hell (card game); and Royal Turf. Joel played all the games with us, except Oh Hell, so we played four games of 6 players and one of 5 players. We also got in a game of Coloretto, but not one that counted. Natalia had not played it and wanted to learn, so she, Joel, Dan, Mason, and I played three times, while Sue and Katrina visited and read some from their current books.

I enjoy Around the World in 80 Days more every time we play it. I would not change anything in this game. I read that someone thought the board artwork wasn’t very attractive. I can’t understand that comment. I think the paintings are delightful, very much in tune with the period of the story. It probably doesn’t hurt that I’ve enjoyed the book and the early movie, too. A few months ago, I set our family record best score with 75 days. Yesterday, Katrina set a new record of 69 days. I think that one will be very difficult to beat. And, she beat Joel by only 1 day! There is no question that he thoroughly understands this game, and I certainly expect him to beat us all soon. Results: Katrina, Joel, me, Mason, Dan, Sue.

We had a short time at the end of the afternoon, before Mason planned to leave, so we slipped in a game of Oh Hell. I’m not sure when Sue and I learned this game or from what source, and we have played it for many years, but we did not learn its official name until last year, when I found it on BGG. We have always just called it The Bidding Game. What was curious about the name of this game is that Sue and I learned to play a card game back in the late 1950’s, which was named Hell (according to the people – family members in Sue’s case, and neighbors in my case – who taught us the game). I have since learned (again on BGG) that our game of “Hell” is officially called “Nertz.” So, it is confusing when I write about either game. I have to remember to call them by their official names, not the names we learned many years ago and still call them in the family. Anyway, Mason won Oh Hell yesterday, with a perfect score of zero. That is only the third perfect score we have had in the past five years; Dan won the other two perfect games. Results: Mason, Sue, Katrina, Dan, me.

Bohnanza is currently one of the most popular games with our family, although Natalia declined to join us this time around. Sue noted that when we began playing Bohnanza, in 2001, usually the active player was offering trades and everyone else was reacting. Now, everyone else offers trades, and the active player selects the best offer. Our games of Bohnanza remind me of the films I’ve seen of the NYSE stock exchange floor. Results: Dan and Mason (tied for first place), Katrina, me, Joel, Sue.

We enjoy Hunters and Gatherers once in a while. To play with six players, we borrow a set of grey meeples from Carcassonne (using the pig and builder pieces, from the Traders and Builders expansion, as river huts). In my opinion, there is no noticeable difference between a 5-player and 6-player game of H&G. They should have included meeples for six and even seven players. This was one of our tighter-scoring games. Results: Dan, Mason, Katrina, Joel, me, Sue.

We have been playing Royal Turf for three years, and it’s still a quick, fun game for us. I was surprised to see on our gaming records that we hadn’t played it as a 5- or 6-player game for the past eight months. Maybe I’ll bring it out more often this year. Results: Dan and Katrina tied (first place), Joel, me, Sue, Mason.

We may or may not have Mason with us next weekend. If not, I won’t have a chance to get a win on Saturday. That would leave me with just one more weekend before I go down in history as having the longest losing streak in the family gaming records. If there is a game that I “always” win, I’d better bring it out…

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

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Games Played March 4, 2006

One key to happiness – GAMES

On Saturday, we were celebrating three family birthdays from the past week – Sue, Mason, and Dan. We went out for a delicious Chinese meal (P.F. Chang’s) and returned to the house for gifts and games.

My win streak for 2006 remains unmarred – ZERO wins! In fact, I finished dead last in the first three games we played yesterday. Either the competition in this family is getting tougher, or I’m just losing it.

We decided to let the birthday celebrants select the first three games. Dan chose Through the Desert, having just won online, for the first time, against three other players. Today’s game was very close, except for my finish. I got sidetracked early in the game, trying to create the longest purple caravan and enclose a nice area. I ended up with absolutely no territory enclosed and lost the purple caravan to Mason. It appears I played the game with tunnel vision, and my score reflected my poor play. Results: Mason, Dan, Katrina tied with 53; Sue – 50; me – 34. I suspect my score will forever be the record low in our five-player games. Terrible start for the day – but it didn’t get much better.

Sue chose Ticket to Ride for the second game. I still hold the record high score in this game for our family, but this was not my day to lay track. My initial tickets were for values of 4, 7, and 8 points – not a good omen. By the time I drew tickets later in the game, two of them were impossible for me to complete, and the third one was another short north-south line. I did complete all my tickets, and I ended the game by using all my trains, but almost all my lines were short ones, and the ticket values were very little help. Results: Sue – 128; Mason – 122; Dan – 114; Katrina – 106; me – 91. I didn’t even make it all the way around the scoring track!

Mason chose the third game, which was no surprise – Settlers of Catan. Mason and Dan have a real competition going in this game, and with Mason’s win, they both have 16 victories. Katrina has 6, while Sue and I have 5 each. On the last round of the game, Mason had something like 19 resource cards in his hand. Even if he rolled a seven on his turn, he still would have had enough resources to win the game. Dan was the next player in line after Mason, and he was ready to add The Largest Army to his Longest Road points and win the game on his turn. Results: Mason – 10; Dan – 8; Joel – 6; Sue, Katrina, and me – 5. Joel had a development card VP, which put him in third place. That’s better than his finishes the last two times; he may be coming back from a slump.

Natalia then joined us for a game of Nertz. I have played Nertz since I was in high school, but I have really lost interest in it in recent years. I generally will play, because it’s one of the few games all seven of us play together. I just didn’t have any interest in it yesterday, so I took some photos of the gameplay, while the six of them played. They didn’t keep score – just played several rounds for the fun of it. As I recall, Joel won the last three hands.

We had time for a short game of something to finish the day, and I mentioned that we hadn’t played any regular five–player card games in a while. We finally settled on Hearts. Because of the fairly short time limit, we decided that 75 would be the losing score. About mid-way through the game, I had a chance to run the hearts, so I gave it a try. On the last trick, my 9 of Spades was caught by the 10 of Spades, and someone else had saved a heart to put on the trick. I got 25, and someone else got 1. Later in the game, I had another chance for a run and took it. On the last trick, my 8 of Clubs was caught by the Jack of Clubs, again with one heart on the trick. On the very next hand, I once again had a chance, took it, and managed to run the hearts. By giving everyone else 26 points, that ended the game. I had not checked the scores beforehand, so I was surprised to find that Sue won the game by 4 points, even after adding the 26 to her score. She usually beats me at card games, and did so again. At least, I didn’t finish last in every game for the day!

We didn’t try any new games this time, giving everyone a rest from the pressure of learning a new set of rules. I may bring out one of the remaining un-played games next weekend. I am looking forward to all of them. Maybe I’ll get lucky and win my first game of the year; hope springs eternal…

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