Monday, November 27, 2006

Thanksgiving Holiday Gaming

One key to happiness – GAMES

We had the entire family at our house for Thanksgiving Day and for the Saturday after Thanksgiving, plus my wife’s mother was with us. Some years, we have convinced her to play some games with us, but she is 98 years old now, and she said she would prefer to watch. She is a very active, healthy, and sharp lady, and although she did not want to play our games, she did watch, ask questions, and even gave some advice now and then. We decided to play games that she knew or would enjoy watching, so our lineup included simpler card games, except we did play Settlers of Catan once.

Thanksgiving Day
We started with several wild games of Nertz. With 8 players, the large dining table is the center of a madhouse, with cards flying through the air in a frenzy. I was always at one end of the table, and it was virtually impossible to play on card stacks at the other end. It was not unusual to have as many as three players trying to play the same card on the same stack at the same time, which always brought howls of laughter and/or pain. With 8 players, the game is so chaotic that we choose not to count the scores in our records. It is simply a crazy, fun time that we all enjoy. Sue’s mother taught her this game when she was a young girl. Her mother (and we) later taught our kids (Katrina and Mason), and more recently, she (and all of us) taught our grandchildren how to play. I also learned the game when I was a teenager, so it is one that has a lot of family history for us, with Sue’s mother involved in passing it along to her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. As we were playing today, she was sitting by me, and she occasionally pointed out to me that I had missed a play. Quite amazing for a 98-year-old!

We played two games of Frank’s Zoo. We do not play with the “lion” rules, but only with the basic rules. With 7 players, we have only a few cards in hand, and it is not uncommon to have singles only. However, Dan was the first player in the first game, and he had four elephants and three of something else. By playing those sets first, he was out (winning the game) very quickly. The second game was closer, with no more than two of a kind played at any time. Results of Game One: Dan first; Joel second; me third; Kassi fourth (her first time to play, and we didn’t even do a good job of explaining the game in advance – she is an excellent game player); Mason fifth; Sue sixth; Katrina last. Results of Game Two: Kassi first (she certainly learned this game quickly); Katrina second; Mason third; Joel fourth; Sue fifth; Dan sixth; me last (couldn’t get rid of a mouse).

The only other game we had time for was Bohnanza. Natalia chose not to join us, even for Bohnanza, which was a little surprising. Results: Joel first; Dan, Katrina, and Kassi (tied) second; me fifth; Mason sixth; Sue last.

It wasn’t our usual day of gaming, but it still was fun.

We had a little more time for games today. We even went outside for a game of Bocce, before starting inside games. We again played Bohnanza, and again Natalia chose not to play. Results: Dan first; Mason and me (tied) second; Joel, Katrina, and Sue (tied) fourth; Kassi last.

We played three games of Circus Flohcati, counting the combined scores as one game for our records. Natalia did join us for this one, but she really wasn’t in a good mood for games. Results: Sue first; Kassi second (her first time at this game); me third; Joel fourth; Mason fifth; Dan sixth; Katrina seventh; Natalia last.

Settlers of Catan was our final game of the day, and we were testing our new revised rules, to allow for 7 players. The modifications worked well (at least I thought so, since I won). Results: Me first; Joel, Dan, and Mason (tied) second; Sue and Kassi (tied) fifth; Katrina last. Our rules changes for 7 players will be described in a future article here.

We are expecting to get back to our normal game day agenda next Saturday, and I’m looking forward to it.

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

West Denver Gamers, November 16, 2006

One key to happiness – GAMES

Had a good time at West Denver Gamers last Thursday. Only three of us were available; we hope the crowd will expand after the Thanksgiving holiday.

I had never played Puerto Rico, as it is not likely to be popular with our family game group. Because it is such a popular game with the BGG crowd, I was interested in learning what it was all about. Iain brought it and willingly taught Reed and me how to play. We had both read the rules and other info found on BGG, so we knew the basics. It didn’t take long to confirm our information and start the game. I have to agree that it is an excellent design. I now know why it is a hit with so many people. Too bad it couldn’t be expanded to accommodate 7 players; I might be able to convince the family to give it a try in that case. I didn’t do well in this first game, but Reed did very well. I knew I needed to have at least one large purple building before the end of the game, but I never managed to buy one, which is reflected in my score. We hope to play again next week, to get a better feel for it. Results: Iain 47; Reed 45; me 36.

Reed had to leave after that game, so Iain and I played a 2-hand game of Through the Desert. Iain, not surprisingly, is an excellent game player, and TtD is a game he likes to play. I had played one game of TtD with two players, online. All my other games have been with 5 or 6 players, and I had forgotten to think “larger” with fewer players. Still, I felt reasonably good to lose by only 5 points.

We had time for a short game, and I had brought Station Master, which was new to Iain. I enjoy this game very much, but had never played with just 2 players. I am used to having five or six or seven trains to deal with all through the game, and having just two trains at a time threw me for a while. Iain got off to a very fast start. I believe he had over 50 points when I was still in the single digits; I was beginning to feel embarrassed. I gradually gained on Iain, connecting some negative-point cars to the trains where he had more passengers. At some point, late in the game, I managed to catch Iain, primarily by reducing his score, while maintaining mine. By the end of the game, I had pulled out the win, with a fair difference in score, so I didn’t lose every game of the evening.

We hope to see more folks at the next meeting, but with the Christmas holiday season coming up quickly, people may not have as much time to devote to game meetings for the next month.

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

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Games Played November 11, 2006

One key to happiness – GAMES

We had a fun day of games on Saturday. Kassi wasn’t able to join us, since she was on vacation in Hawaii! We did finally play the last of our un-played games – Hoity Toity.

Hoity Toity is an interesting game. I think we need to play it at least one more time to get a real feel for it. With six players, there are a lot of “conflicts” each turn. Rarely did anyone find themselves alone in either the Auction Hall or the Castle. We did not pace ourselves as far as spending our money, so the game dragged to a close with everyone trying to steal collectibles from each other, and rarely did anyone risk an exhibit near the end. Results: Mason first; Dan and Katrina (tied) second; me third; Sue fourth; Joel last (he didn’t care much for this game and might not play it again, very soon.

Next up was Marco Polo Expedition. Mason OWNS this game in our group. Before today, we had played it four times in the past year, and he had won every game! Near the end of this game, Mason was trailing the rest of us by several spaces, but he had been hoarding cards for some time. We knew he was planning to make a run for the finish, and we were all trying to beat him to it. Finally, he started moving, leap-frogged us, and indeed won the game, again. Results: Mason first; Dan and Sue (tied) second; me fourth; Katrina last. Someday, perhaps, one of us will beat Mason at this game (maybe).

We hadn’t played Carcassonne for a while, and decided to bring it out today. Early in the game, Dan was on two cities, each with a cathedral, and the cities were growing well. I managed to connect and join him in one of them, while Mason did the same in the other. Fortunately, just before the game ended, I managed to complete the city we were sharing, and Dan and I scored a bunch of points. He and Mason did not get the other city finished, so they got no points for it, since it contained a cathedral. Although I led from about mid-way through the game, it appeared Mason would win, because he managed to grab almost all the trade goods (each of the three worth 10 points to the person with the most in them). On my final tile placement in the game, I was able to finish a city that contained a wheat, and managed to tie him for that item. That preserved my win, and in fact, when we counted the farmers/fields, Dan passed Mason. Results: Me first; Dan second; Mason third; Katrina fourth; Sue fifth; Joel last.

For a rare event, Joel decided to opt out of playing Settlers of Catan today, so we had a five-player game. I was first player and placed my first settlement on an 8-8-9 combination. That should have almost guaranteed me a win. We started out fairly evenly, but soon Sue and Katrina began edging away from the rest of us. When Sue stole the Longest Road from Dan, and Katrina got the Largest Army, it was just a matter of time. On the last round, both Sue and Katrina had 9 points, but Sue played before Katrina and managed to get the victory. Katrina had the required 10 points, but didn’t get the chance to play and win. Results: Sue first; Katrina second; Mason and me (tied) third; Dan last.

We ended the day with a 7-player game of Bohnanza. I thought I was doing okay, until we counted the gold at the end. In fact, I did do well, but so did everyone else. The winning amount was 12 gold (a 3-way tie), followed by 11 gold, and finally 10 gold (3-way tie). That was a very close game! Results: Joel, Mason, and Sue (tied) first; Natalia fourth; Katrina, Dan, and me (tied) last.

I am continuing to work on expanding games for 7-8 players. We need to test many of them, to be sure the modifications will work, and I’m looking forward to that. Now, we have no un-played games, so perhaps I’d better get busy working on a new purchase list!

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

Friday, November 10, 2006

West Denver Gamers, November 8, 2006

One key to happiness – GAMES

West Denver Gamers met for the second time, although it was an “interim” game night. The group has planned to meet two nights a month, but five of us were ready to meet between those weeks. We played two games and looked at and discussed five others, if I recall correctly.

Iain had asked me to bring Coloretto and Silverado; he brought Speed Circuit and Puerto Rico; and Glen brought I’m the Boss and Samurai. We didn’t get to Samurai, but did see the others. We had hoped to play Puerto Rico, but some time and tables were occupied in Barnes & Noble by an elementary school poetry reading, which didn’t finish until about 7:30. I brought out Coloretto. The other four had not played it, but it is an easy game to learn. We played three quick games: Reed won the first one; Iain won the second; and I can’t recall who won the third. Everyone caught on quickly, making good defensive plays even in the first game.

Iain explained Puerto Rico to the three of us who have not played it, and we hope to play it at the next session. I showed Silverton, which Iain was particularly interested in (and at his request). He and I both have an interest in the railroad history of Colorado and the Rocky Mountain area, and it is neat to see the small towns (some no longer in existence) on the mapboard. Silverton is primarily an economics game, based on railroads. It is a good solitaire game, which is the only way I’ve played it, but I expect it would be more fun with three or four players. Iain may decide to purchase it, and we hope to perhaps have the opportunity to play at least a 2-player game someday.

Iain also showed us his copy of the 3M edition of Speed Circuit, the one that has the racetrack board wrapped around the box. I had the football game made like that, and Reed had the golf game of the same style. It was a successful series of games. Reed had an uncle who worked for the 3M company at the time those games were produced, and he said they always got some of those 3M games for Christmas. Lucky guy!

Glen brought out I’m the Boss to end the evening. None of the rest of us had played it, so it was a learning experience for us. This is a negotiation game, with lots of “gotcha” opportunities. During the game, I drew most of the I’m the Boss cards, while getting hardly any other useful ones. Fortunately, that gave me many opportunities to stop other negotiations and be in the position of attempting to make deals in my favor. I was very surprised when we counted the money at the end of the game and found that Glen and I had tied for the win. It was a fun game, but I’m not sure whether it would be popular in our family group. I’m thinking it would get very chaotic with 7 players, although it would be easy to expand it for that size group.

It was a fun evening. I suspect that some of us may meet almost weekly, with the official game nights set for twice a month. It is already providing an excellent venue for learning about games I’ve heard about, but probably would not purchase or have the opportunity to play, otherwise. It appears that many of us have very different collections of games, although we mostly like the same types. It will be interesting to see how the group develops over the next several months.

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

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Games Played November 4, 2006

One key to happiness – GAMES

We had a great day of gaming today. Joel was attending a friend’s birthday party in the afternoon, so he only played one game with us. Natalia played two games, so everyone was involved.

We started with Settlers of Catan. With six players, it’s a busy map. We had few good numbers on wheat or ore tiles, so there was a real shortage of those important resources. However, one of the ore tiles was an “8.” I was first player, so I placed my first settlement on that tile, which also bordered a “9” and a “10.” Those numbers paid off quite well for me (one being brick and one being wood). I also managed to place my second settlement on a “6” sheep tile, which did pretty well. Even with those locations, I got off to a rather slow start, with rolls of 11 and 4 coming up often. Fortunately, I was able to do some good trades early, which allowed me to begin buying Development Cards. I soon accumulated three Soldiers and grabbed the Largest Army card. During the remainder of the game, I purchased five more cards, receiving another Soldier, a Year of Plenty, a Monopoly, a Road-Building, and two Victory Points. That is one of the best sets of Development Cards I have ever had in this game. The game developed slower than usual. We were well into the game before anyone could upgrade a settlement to a city. Towards the end of the game, I suddenly realized that I had five settlements placed, the 2-point Largest Army card, and 2 VP cards, for a total of 9 points. I miscounted Katrina’s points, thinking she had only 8, but she also had 9. At that point, I acquired the Road-Building card and needed only one more card to be able to build a settlement, which would win the game. I acquired the necessary card in a trade, before my turn, so I was “looking good.” Then, Sue built a settlement at the only point where I could have built, and, alas, I had overlooked the fact that I had no more settlements to place, anyway. I had to upgrade to a city or acquire another VP card. I don’t believe anyone else realized I was sitting with 9 points (not knowing I had 2 VP cards). On my next turn, I managed to trade just enough to upgrade to a city and win the game. I was as surprised as anyone at the table. It was a good start for me, giving me three consecutive game victories, counting last week’s two wins. Results: Me first; Katrina second; Sue third; Kassi, Mason, Dan (tied) last.

Natalia said she would like to play Flea Circus (Zirkus Flohcati), so that was next up. Because it’s a fast game, we play three games, totaling the scores to count as one game. After the first game, I was in next-to-last place. In the second game, I managed to draw the card I needed, with only one more left in the deck, to complete a gala. This is not often possible, when playing with seven players, before the deck runs out. In the first game, Natalia had 9 of the 10 different colors when the game ended, just missing getting a gala. The gala points (we decided long ago that 15 is the best score for a gala) put me in first place for the two games. Naturally, whomever is the leader on the score sheet gets hit by the special “stealing” cards from other players, so I knew it would be difficult to stay ahead of Mason, who was trailing me by just six points. However, I managed to take a good card from his hand, and I finished with enough points in the third game to have first place for the overall game. Results: Me first; Katrina second; Natalia third; Dan fourth; Sue fifth; Mason sixth; Kassi last (this was her first time to play).

Next, I pushed to try a new game I received for my birthday – Dragon’s Gold. This is a fun game, and I expect we will play it some more. The colors on the score cards are not very clear; the gold looks like yellow and the red and purple colors are almost indistinguishable on the card, which was misleading for our first time to play. The adventurer groups always managed to agree on the division of the treasure, although I think the negotiation will be tougher in the future. I managed to kill one dragon by myself and collect 6 treasures, and I acquired two magic cards during the game. At the end of the game, there was one dragon with treasure on it, and the Black Diamond was in the dragon’s hidden treasure. Fortunately, I was in the group that killed the dragon, along with three other players. I offered to take only the Black Diamond and let the others split up the rest of the treasure, which was agreeable to all of them. It was a perfect deal for me, since I did not have a good variety of gems. I also had the most purple gems, and only one of my gems was wasted by the curse of the diamond. I had acquired quite a bit of gold and silver and three magic objects (red treasure pieces). When we added the scores, I came out on top. Results: Me first (41); Mason second (34); Dan third (31); Katrina fourth (30); Kassi fifth (26); Sue last (19).

There was just enough time for an eight-hand game of Bohnanza to finish the day. As always, there was a lot of wild trading taking place, and the game played quickly. I scored slowly at first, but managed to get some good collections of Black-Eyed and Soy Beans near the end. Just before the cards ran out for the second time, I was able to trade a Wax from my hand, giving me the opportunity to play two Soy Beans on my last turn. That trade put me in a tie for first place with Natalia. Results: Natalia and me (tied) first; Mason, Sue, Dan, Katrina (tied) third; Kassi seventh; Joel last (a very rare finish for him).

I couldn’t believe that I managed to sweep the group today – four wins (including one tie) out of four games. Since I won the two games we played last week, that made six consecutive victories for me in October and November. I still will not catch Dan, Sue, or Joel in wins for 2006, let alone Mason or Katrina, who have a good lead over the rest of us, but it does feel good to finally get some wins this year.

The only new game we haven’t yet played is Hoity Toity, and I look forward to trying it. I’ve spent some time this past week working on modifications of our 5- and 6-player games, to accommodate 7 players. Kassi won’t be with us next weekend (since she will be vacationing in Hawaii!), so we won’t be trying any of the modified games with seven players. I do look forward to trying them in the future, though.

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

West Denver Gamers

One key to happiness – GAMES

Last Thursday evening was the first game night for a new group called the West Denver Gamers. I was one of nine people who attended, which I thought was an excellent turnout. "citizenk" (username on BGG) organized the group and found a good place to meet – Barnes and Noble at Denver West. Sue and I were with Natalia and Joel earlier in the evening, so I wasn’t able to get to B&N until almost 9:00pm. The group had already played Formula De and had just started Bohnanza. After that game, five of us decided to stay a little longer, and we played Through the Desert. Although I finished last, I definitely enjoyed the game. The group seems to be a very congenial collection of folks who enjoy games, and I’m looking forward to more game nights with them.

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