Game Night

I almost pulled out of my Liar’s Dice slump – after 3 players were eliminated, I was still in it and up 5 dice to 3 to 3 … but one screwed up bid around here, and it’s the slippery slope. I think I was the 4th player out.

Die Sieben Siegel has been growing on me with each outing, which has to be a good sign. I admit I rarely read other game pundit’s sites, because I find I don’t get a lot out of it, but I was curious to see what people had to say on this one. One comment that struck me was a reviewer who felt that DSS had more luck than standard Oh Hell! because of the difficulty of predicting tricks and colors. I really do not think this is true at all; I think DSS is a lot more skillful than Oh Hell! or Wimmuln (from Mu und Mehr) or Wizard, both because you’re dealing with so many more cards (15/hand) and because seeing all the seals on the table gives you a lot more insight into which plays might work and which to avoid. I like this one a lot, I just wish it went up to 6.

San Juan is, of course, the Puerto Rico card game and the first game from 2004 for which I held out significant optimism. Take Puerto Rico and remove the colonists, ships, and plantations, turn the buildings into a card deck, and you’ve about got it. All the familiar buildings from the basic game & expansion set (plus some new ones) are in the deck, which you can build when you draw them. The currency you build with is the cards themselves, so to play, say, a Sugar Mill, you will have to discard 2 other cards from your hand. The Sugar mill will then produce Sugar when the Producer role is taken, which can then be turned into more cards when the Trader role is taken. The new role (replacing the Mayor and Settler) is the Councillor, which always has me humming Handel’s Messiah to myself for some reason. Anyway, it lets everyone draw a bunch of cards from the deck, and select one to keep. The roles have the familiar action/privilege breakdown.

San Juan was pretty cool, and I quite enjoyed it. It’s short. It pretty simple. It’s interesting. It really is Puerto Rico boiled down, and while some of the depth has been lost in the process, some of Puerto Rico’s less desireable attributes are gone too. With less hosage and a bit more randomness, it’s not quite the brutal whine-fest Puerto Rico can be. It rewards flexibility more than Puerto Rico, which tended to be a rather ruthless short-term-optimization game. All in all, I was quite pleased, and look forward to playing again. I doubt it will get the same raw number of plays that Puerto Rico did, but it might have better longevity – Puerto Rico hasn’t come out ’round here in at least a year.

San Juan addendum: I don’t know if this is a new thing, but Rio Grande really seems to be losing it. There is yet another major error on the box cover of the game (this is not a card game “for” Puerto Rico). The rulebook has a couple errors, and generally feels like it was translated by Babelfish and lightly touched up by someone for whom English was not a primary language – there are several examples of expressions that are literal translations from the German, but that no English-speaker would ever actually use. I expect better, but I guess it’s the hazard of being a niche market.

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Game Night

My gaming seems to have become a bit wargame-heavy recently, so it’s good to get back to some lighter stuff.

We started off with a quick round of Liar’s Dice, in which I’m happy to say I didn’t get trounced. I didn’t win either, but still, I hung in there for most of the game which is better than I have been doing.

Then we played a 5-player game of Mü, a game which I thought the world of early on but somehow have little enthusiasm for anymore. It’s still a pretty good game, and certainly I enjoyed it for quite a while … but I dunno, these days it seems like a lot of effort for more of the same, I wish it were shorter. If you haven’t played it and like classic card games I certainly recommend you do so, but I guess after however many games I played of it (25 at least, probably more) I’m just done … I thought after a break of a few years I could get some of the enthusiasm back, but such has not been the case unfortunately.

So, when we had two more players show, I begged out of the Mü; we decided to do Flaschenteufel. I think after 6 or 7 games I finally rounded the corner on this one and am starting to see the patterns. I still made one boneheaded play (never lead middling yellow trump), but managed to pull it out. The score before the last hand was 87-87-86! We had one very interesting hand when all the low trump came out in a flurry, and it looked like the 7 or 8 might get stuck with the bottle. Very nice game I think. Now that I know what I’m doing more or less, we’ll see how much longer it’s good for. I queried the table as to whether they thought 3 or 4 was better, and I was in the minority at preferring 4. On balance, I did come to appreciate the 3-player game more after this game, so maybe it doesn’t matter that much.

Then we had the obligatory game of Tichu, and the other three of us went to play some Attika. I’ve noted before that this game does have a rather serious problem, but it’s still a decent enough little game. The nasty kingmaker issues don’t come up every game, and 3 players is a significant improvement over 4 in this respect. People have complained about the randomness in the game, which hasn’t bothered me as much as the Kill Dr. Lucky syndrome, but this game I did get bitten by it – if I could have drawn a single hill card in my last 10 or so draws I would have won :). But I couldn’t, so I didn’t. This game has settled into sort of a bipolar rating for me, a 6 or 7 if the game plays cleanly, or a 2 or 3 if the game is decided by a failed block. I don’t want to overstate the point because I did enjoy the first 5 or so games a fair amount, but somehow just getting 5 plays out of a game doesn’t seem to cut it anymore.

Game Night

I guess I picked a good time to start the blog … it’s been an insane amount of gaming these last two weeks. Not that I’m complaining; and since Kim is out of town, I’ll be doing yet more wargaming this weekend …

Liar’s Dice is a regular at our group, and I seem to be going through an extended “out of the zone” phase for it. I used to regularly be one of the last ones in, and now recently I’m regularly the first one out! Ouch. Hard to imagine that the first few times I played this game, I thought it sucked.

The big game tonight was Wildlife, a recent Kramer release that I’ve been interested in for some time, but not so interested that I was going to go out on a limb and purchase it. But when Roger showed up with a copy last week, I was anxious to give it a try. This is nominally an evolution game, but in truth is fairly abstract. There are the traditional regions of the board, which you can score points for first/second/third in. The interesting bit is that each region has a terrain type, and player has differing abilities to compete in each area. Cards control everything, from expanding and improving your species to various special action cards that do random things (plagues, etc.). Each turn you have to auction off one card, and can play one or two more. There is a mechanism for acquiring traits (intelligence, aggressiveness, etc.) that I think everyone agreed added a lot of time to the game and didn’t quite work. Anyway, bottom line for me on this one, it is an very interesting compete-for-areas type game, with a lot of options and a lot of variables to manipulate. That’s good. It’s also slow, and with 6 players just took too long. That’s bad. I’d definitely play it again with 4, and it might be a better game all round if the traits were eliminated. It’s even close to a “buy” for me, as a bigger, meatier euro game, but I think I’ll need one more play.

Coloretto was so-so, not a bad game but not clear there is much control (I realized afterwards it was a Michael Schacht game, if I had known before hand I probably wouldn’t have bothered); randomness is OK, but Coloretto is dry and processional, so not great. Not one I would necessarily veto if asked to play again, but not one I have any really enthusiasm for. This sort of lighter cardgame filler is a category in which tons and tons of games get published, yet such a huge percentage of them are so marginal (at best).

Speaking of which, For Sale is a great, classic game that I still like a lot after all these years, and I think You’re Bluffing (Kuhlhandel) is an good, underrated bidding/bluffing game, one of the best of the shorter “serious filler” games. Both of these guys are some of the best in this category.