Sunday, August 14, 2005
Gulf Games: Friday
For a day that started out with an interesting political discussion with a former ice dancer and was punctuated by bits of aircraft tire shredding hydraulic line, I still managed to get in a decent big of gaming. I rode to the airport with Doug, one of Charles' groomsmen. They met when they were both competitive ice dancers. We had an meaty but generally agreeable talk about politics & religion before his flight left for Phoenix. My flight from Providence, RI, to Orlando was uneventful, but I can't say the same for the flight(s) from Orlando to New Orleans. That's right, flights, as in plural. As in two. As in they had to turn around and land 10 minutes after we took off, due to the broken hydraulic system. Pretty disconcerting, btw, to see emergency vehicles parked by the runway when you land. This meant I was 2.5 hours late getting into New Orleans - so William, my 16 yr old nephew was joining me there for Gulf Games, got to explore the airport. Thanks again to Lenny Leo for picking us up and delivering us to Gulf Games Central... the Park Plaza Hotel on Canal Street. We ended up with a great room - just one floor down from the Gulf Games area. In fact, once we figured out that we could take the staircase just outside our room up to the next floor, we seldom had to wait for an elevator. But on to the games! We started with Maus Nach Haus, a Haba game which evidently had been pegged as a "Fluff Daddy" game from the minute someone had brought it to the table earlier in the week. Each player has six small wooden mice (about a 1/3 inch thick) which they set on the table ready to play. One player (or possibly a non-playing friend) grabs a wooden ring and spins it on the table. The players then begin merrily shooting their mice into the center of the table, attempting to be inside or under the ring when it falls. And that's it. 5-10 minutes of flicking fun with a great random element. I need to own this one. (Wiliiam beat us in the first game... and that would be his last win for a very long time.) Continuing on the "let's play kid stuff" theme, William & I next jumped into Au Backe, which is essentially the card game version of Chicken Cha Cha Cha. Chris "Have Bass, Will Travel" Comeaux joined us and won as Allison Vander Ark gave him the game. (There's was something about buying a steak dinner and a side bet which I didn't completely understand.) Anyhoo, still fun. I already own this one and enjoy playing it with Braeden. Next was a game on my "try it" list - the oddly named Ubongo. Evidently "Ubongo" means "speed spatial puzzle" in German, as that's what this game is all about. Players race to finish Tetris-like puzzles then grab gems from the middle using an odd scoring system. (Cindy Wood suggested a different and more straightforward system that I think would work just fine.) I managed to squeak by for the win... which never hurts my opinion of a game. Probably the only thing wrong with it is that it tops out at four players. Another game that I had on my "try it" list was up next - the difficult to pronounce König Salomons Schatzkammer. The first thing I noticed was the much better than usual production for a Clementoni game, what with the chunky pieces & hefty molded plastic board. It's an archaelogical dig for treasures - which means it's really a set collection/move optimization game. Nothing wrong with that, but the board position changes so severely between turns (esp. with 5 players) that you can not plan ahead. It's not a bad game - I'd happily play again (and did on Sunday morning of GG) but I feel no need to own. Tim & I tied for the win in this one. Jim Cobb & Joe Huber (along with Rio Grande Games head honcho, Jay Tummelson) then introduced William & I to Verflixxt! (The English title of the game is That's Life.) It's a simple roll'n'move/press your luck dice game that works like a charm. I understand now why it was nominated for Spiel des Jahres. I've played it 4 times now, and I like it best with 5-6 players. Joe won, just edging out Jay. I think this is when we went to dinner (my notes are unclear on this point) and we tried to meet up with the Berg family. Unfortunately, we were given 3 different sets of directions to the Mexican place they went to (none of which worked) and so we ended up with Sbarro Pizza. Oh, well... back to the games! I handily beat Jeannette Vander Ark at Flowerpower, a tile placing game that I particularly enjoy. (It probably doesn't hurt that I "grok" the game and win about 85% of the time.) Then I became the "ringmaster" for the semi-cooperative Days of Wonder game, Shadows Over Camelot. Susan Rozmiarek has done a tremendous job of telling the story of the game on her website, The Game Ranch. One nit to pick, however - we played this game on Friday night, not Saturday. William was playing Ticket To Ride: Europe while this was going on - and getting slaughtered. Thanks to whoever was involved in humbling my nephew! :-) Next, Joe roped us into Alpfer Stafette (which doesn't appear on the Geek)... it's a VERY early Klaus Teuber design about milking cows. Really, it's a dice game with a bit of card bluffing. In it's favor, it's got cute wooden pail pieces. Otherwise, there's nothing much to see here. I won, but it was more of a pastime than a great game. Something similar could be said about Hamstern... in English, Hamstring. This is a draw your tile & place it game that just lacked any oomph. I benefited from the patterns developing on my board being more difficult to sabotage than others, which led me to victory. Joe got hosed by bad tile draws and never had a chance. I do NOT understand why Joe rates this one an 8. The night continued with an 8 player game of Diamant. This blisteringly fast cousin of Can't Stop is a lot of fun to play. It's on my "must find a copy" list, and I don't win it nearly often enough for my personal satisfaction. Then we played Klunker. My first game of Klunker (back at GG3) I managed to neither lose nor gain money - and I remember feeling like I didn't understand what had happened to me. This time, some 13 Gulf Games later, I consider myself a pretty decent Klunker player with a handle on some of the tactics - and I STILL managed to break even. Ah, well. Jay won this one, barely edging out Kay. Still one of my favorite 30 minute card games... William & I ended the night playing Run For Your Life, Candyman, which is an over-priced and over-produced Cheap*** game. It's Candyland with the ability to attack other people... and I will admit that the damage system (when you take X number of hits on a body section, you rip that part of your gingerbread man off) is kind of cute. But the game goes on some 20 minutes past the point of enjoyment... not for me. Frank "Moo" Branham won... of course. Saturday information coming later!