Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Gulf Games: Saturday

If you missed the first part of this story, check out Gulf Games: Friday.

Who cares if I went to bed at 2:30 am? I had to squeeze 5 days of Gulf Game-ish fun into 2 and a half, so I popped out of bed at 7:30 am and grabbed some devotional time while waiting for someone to show up with the keys to the game room. I don't remember who it was (Greg? James? Anonymous Nice Person Whose Name I Forgot?)... remember, it was crack-of-dawn-ish. :-)

Anyway, once we were in, we did a bit of cleaning up (less than I remember from previous years) and the gaming began. James, Scott T, Earl & Michell and I played Knizia's
Tower of Babel. It's an auction game, sort of... that turns into sort of an area majority game. (You'll notice I use the words "sort of" a lot in trying to sum up this game.) Because, well, I sort of liked it. I'm not sure it has "legs" (in other words, that I'd play it all that much) but with five players it's an interesting game system. (I'm pretty sure it would be much less fun with less players.) Scott won, with Michelle & I tied just two points behind him. (Nice to finally meet the legendary Scott Tullace, btw.)

We added Chris Comeaux to our number and pulled out a personal favorite that I think is too often overlooked,
Medieval Merchant. I sucked wind the entire game... Earl & I both wanted to start in the same place, but I chose first. My mistake; Earl went on to win from his position. Sigh. (For those who haven't seen/played MM, it's a rail game cleverly disguised as a game about opening cities to trade following the Dark Ages. This time around, I noticed it's similarities to Power Grid - well, at least the board play part of Power Grid.)

With just a few minutes to spare before the Liar's Dice tournament began, I coaxed Peter McCarthy, Joe Huber & my nephew William (who had just stumbled into the game room) to play Tom Jolly's
Light Speed. This game actually takes longer to score than it does to play. (Reader's Digest Condensed description: each player has ten spaceship cards, which are placed on the table "real-time". The first player to finish placing his ships yells "stop!" and then you score the game. You get points for hitting other players & asteroids with your lasers - preprinted on the spaceship cards. That's it.) We managed to play the game and were about 1/2 way through the scoring when...

Liar's Dice tournament actually started. I joined Joe, Derk, Cindy, Peter, & William to play - and, humorously enough, Joe, who actively does not like Liar's Dice, won.

We then returned to finish scoring to find that this was really Joe's morning, as he smoked us at Light Speed. (No real surprise there - Joe's the one who taught me the game originally.) I managed to put down my first negative score (-4) in my Light Speed playing history. Double sigh.

The last game before lunch was Royal Turf - as the Smith family (Sheldon, Regina & Laura) joined Ed Rozmiarek, William & I in betting on the ponies. This is probably my favorite horse racing game (though I'm still fond of the overly complicated Win, Place & Show.) It has a high celebration/cursing luck factor (those are games where there's lots of cheering & booing on the roll of the dice or, to quote Alan Parson Project, "the turn of a friendly card.") Anyway, the dice were not friendly to me - I managed to beat only William, the single newbie at the table. Triple sigh.

Lunch was McDonalds - because:
  1. we could walk there
  2. it was fast
For those of you who are concerned that William & I went to New Orleans and didn't manage to eat any non-chain food, wait for the Gulf Games: Sunday post.

After lunch was the one game on my "dance card" - an Operation Overlord run of
Memoir '44 with 8 players. We used the Ardennes scenario (the only published non-beach Overlord scenario) which has an amazing 12 point winning requirement. I commanded the Allies, with Tim McCarthy, William, and Paul Cortazzo as my field generals. Ed Roz commanded the Axis, with the motley crew of Eddie Bonet, Craig Berg, and Chris Lohroff as his field generals. The game was a little long, primarily because the German generals consulted with each other at unbelievable length. Of course, they won 12-7, so who am I to argue? A wonderful time was had by all - except the poor German infantrymen, Hans & Frans, who were cut to ribbons by tank fire... mainly because they were talking too much. (This was William's first exposure to gaming with Craig, which might be better known as "laughing your rear end off.")

Chris Comeaux then taught Allison Vander Ark, William & I
Sole Mio, the add-on/stand-alone sister/cousin/significant other of Uwe Rosenberg's Mamma Mia. (Note: I'm a big fan of Mamma Mia.) While we had fun playing, I'm not sure this is necessary. Chris managed to grab all 11 pizzas (grrr...) while only got 9. William continued his stunning losing streak with only 4 pizzas. Note to self: keep playing memory games with William.

Next, I introduced Susan Rozmiarek & William to the joy that is
Viva Topo. I've written about this other places, but Viva Topo is part of two game families. The first is the "the game chases you around and eats your pieces" family, which consists of:
  • Midnight Party
  • Viva Pamplona
  • Viva Topo
The second is the "cat & mouse theme" family, which consists of:
  • Cat & Mouse (Max Mauseschreck)
  • Mause-Rallye
  • So Ein Kase
  • Viva Topo
(Obviously, I'm missing some in the second category. But, of course, somebody with more free time than I has created a GeekList: What's New Pussycat, Whooawhoawhoa?) I managed to win (experience and good dice are everything).

Susan returned the favor by teaching us a new Haba game,
Tier au Tier, which is German for "stack cute wooden animals on a crocodile." It's Jenga for kids... but the bits are Haba-licious and it plays very quickly. I liked it, even though Susan (boo, hiss) won.

Since we were on a kid game kick, I pulled out one of the few games I brought with me, the little-known Bis Bald im Wald. (OK, "little-known" doesn't quite cover it. I'm the only person who owns it, according to the Geek, and only one other person has rated it - "Invisible" Craig, who played my copy last summer.) The theme is negligible (something about deers hunting for their forest friends), but the gameplay is substantially above "kid" level. Each turn you move your deer around the 5x5 grid of tiles, turning over tiles in an attempt to match the "search" card selection of animals. Turn over a correct animal, you get to move & flip again. Turn over the wrong animal, and your turn is over. Turn over an owl and you get to peek at one tile. Turn over a tree and you simply get to continue your turn. And, if there weren't enough things going on in the game, whenver someone completes a "search" card with a fox on it, the row & column that the fox was in are shuffled and redealt to the grid.

It's not that the memory element is impossible - it's only 25 cards. It's the changeable nature of the board coupled with the need to physically move to the correct location that short out adult brains. We called this one on account of needing to eat, but I think Kevin was in the lead. Lenny & I were sucking major wind.

Dinner tonight was a short jaunt down the street with the Rozmiarek clan - man, I like those people. We talked about houses & games & raising kids in the rarified atmosphere of Burger King.

After dinner, it was back to the game room for the Prize Table Party. A number of contest winners were announced... and while I wasn't in the running for Mr. Friendly (hard to do when you miss 2-3 days of gaming), I did manage to win the Box of Mystery competition. (Frank & Sandi create a box filled with 13 game bits... you reach in and figure out what game they're from by touching them.) The only one I missed was Coyote (I guessed Octopus, which still isn't listed on the Geek... gotta take care of that.)

The Prize Table is a huge pile of games (donated primarily by the attendees) which families get to grab based on a lottery system. I managed to snag That's Life!, Automania, Alles im Griff, and in the final "you must take something" round, Galloping Pigs (which I didn't previously own).

And then we were back to the gaming! Next up was the insanely expensive Master Thieves. The game is essentially Citadels crossed with a memory game... but the production values of the box/cabinet are stunning. I managed to snake out a 1 point win over my good friend, Ted Cheatham (who's about to be a published game designer!). Also in the hunt were Eddy, Jeannette, Rob Wood & William.

Next, the "old men" (Rob & I) played a quick game of Crokinole with the "young whippersnappers", William & Jeannette. Age & cunning beat youth & skill, which is at it should be. :-)

When folks found out I'd never played Coyote (from my mistaken Box O'Mystery identification), they insisted I give it a try. Gotta say, the novelty of wearing a velcro band on my head wore off pretty quickly... and there's not enough game left after that to sweep up off the floor and put in a thimble. (Can you tell I wasn't impressed?) For a really good bluffing game, try Liar's Dice or Ciao Ciao instead. Ted won, knocking out a number of us.

Next, we grabbed Igloo Pop and got into a discussion about the relative merits of this game and it's predecessor, Zapp Zerapp. (For the record, Igloo Pop is faster, less expensive, more involving, less downtime, and doesn't require exactly four players to work. Guess which one I like better?) Despite Frank & I coming in with some serious Pop experience, it was (wait for it!) William who finally broke his losing drought with a convincing win here.

Frank Branham knows my tastes... and so decided to show me the only game I know of made by Tupperware (aka Tuppertoys): Bounce It-In. (OK, Tupperware made some poker chips... my father-in-law has a set. But they don't clink, which is, frankly, the whole point of poker chips.) Bounce It In is insanely addictive - we played 5 games (Frank won 4 of them, while Jeannette won the other) and I'd have been happy to have played it for another 1/2 hour. It's just like those carnival games where you bounce the balls into a pattern... only, you're doing it competitively. Yes, I'm on the prowl for a copy of this one.

Jeannette & William joined Rob for two (count 'em, 2) games of Cannibal Pygmies in the Jungle of Doom. I'd rather have my fingernails pulled out without benefit of anesthetic than play 1 game of that or Grave Robbers yadda yadda yadda...

So, Frank taught me Invicta's El Dorado. (Invicta is the same company that published Mastermind.) It's a quick moving deduction game with a bit of pirate theme added for flavor. Frank smoked me, but it was still good fun to play. (Unlike Mastermind, which just makes my brain hurt.)

The last game of the night was a partnership run of The Game of Life Card Game. I'd heard a lot about this (it had been a hit at the last Gulf Games) and this was my first chance to play. And you know what? The buzz was right - it's the world's greatest game, but it was quite fun to play. Even if Michael & I didn't come close to Frank & Shanna in developing a rewarding life for ourselves. (About 1/2 way through the game, it came to me how to describe this one... it's a kinder, gentler Fiese Freunde Fette Feten.)

OK, it was bed time - roughly 2 am. Got to get some shut eye before prayer service & more gaming the next morning.

To be continued...

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