Thursday, April 26, 2007

Gulf Games 18: Friday (Part 2)

I started writing this back in August of 2006... about a month after Gulf Games 18. Then it got shuffled to the bottom of the virtual pile of "to be written" stuff on my virtual desk. So, some 8 months later, here it is. Sheesh.

My Gulf Games Friday continued with a "GG-only" game - Pick Two. (By GG-only game, I mean a game that I only end up playing at Gulf Games.) Pick Two is a bit of a Gulf Games institution, what with Gail Schloesser & Vicki Watson both being "word sharks"... and it doesn't hurt that the game easily accomodates 6 players (or 8 with the new deluxe edition). This was my opportunity to play a game with Cassie Berg & her "friend", Adam - as well as Bill Hembee, Kevin Rozmiarek, and the shark herself, Gail Schloesser.

Pick Two is a real-time crossword game - you get 8 letter tiles to begin, quickly attempting to fit them into a crossword-like format. The first person to do so howls out, "Pick two!" and everyone at the table grabs two more tiles from the pile in the middle. Of course, unless you've set yourself up correctly, these tiles may do more harm than good, as they must be fit into the grid as well. This goes on, usually for 5-10 minutes, with cries of "Pick two!" followed by grumbling, moaning, and an occasional "whoo-hoo" as the right tile falls into someone's lap. When the tiles are exhausted (not to mention the players), the first person to finish calls "Done!" and play stops. The game is scored based on the tiles you didn't use - each tile has a point value. You play 5 rounds (I think?) and the lowest score wins.

This was an esp. good Pick Two GG for me, as I not only won this game over Gail (thanks to her drawing both Q's in the final round) but I also managed to win in an 8 player game later on Saturday, this tim with BOTH Vicki & Gail at the table. (My discovery - there are two odd words that are very helpful in Pick Two: "queue" and "valve".)

Possibly the least successful gaming experience of Gulf Games followed my euphoric Pick Two win: I talked five other folks into playing Fat Messiah's
Lifeboat. Note: this is NOT what many Eurogamers call "the Lifeboat game" - that's actually Rette sich wer kann (which is also about lifeboats & negotiation, but is a completely different animal.) This is a role-playing card game, with each person taking on one of six preset characters: the Captain, the First Mate, Sir Stephen, Lady ?, Frenchie & The Kid. Players are also dealt a Love card & a Hate card - at the end of the game, they are rewarded for the character they "love" being alive and the character they "hate" being dead... and yes, there are rules for if you love or hate yourself - or both.

Normally, this game is a boatload of silly fun... but something weird went wrong here. Despite the joys of playing something like this with Craig Berg, James Miller & others, it fell completely flat. And when I say "flat", I mean like a pancake that was crushed underneath a brick that was then leveled by a steamroller. I won - but, youch, we managed to create negative fun space in the room.

We quickly jumped over to play a hard fought match of Tumblin' Dice, where I snaked out a 7 point win over Craig. (If you've seen Tumblin' Dice, you realize that this had very little to do with skill.)

I'm not sure how the transition worked, but I found myself invited into a 6 player game of Iliade (the English version is Iliad.) With six players, you play in partnerships, so I was matched up with Dale Yu against the teams of Alan Moon/Valerie P & John P/Tyler P.

Ilide reminded me a bit of Taj Mahal in trying to decide when to drop out & take points and/or cards - but the partnership aspect helped to keep some of the "futility of hope" sentiments I feel during Taj Mahal at bay. (Others say it reminds them of Condotierre, which I've only played once and didn't particularly enjoy.) I don't think I'd buy a copy of Iliade... but I'd gladly play it again.

Dale & I made a valiant effort to catch up standing on John & Tyler, but it was to no avail. Alan & Valerie had built too much of a lead.

My notes become a bit iffy here... I think I ate dinner around this time. I know this was the same afternoon that the storm came roaring down the river - one minute you could see downtown Louisville across the Ohio (it is the Ohio River, right?!) and the next minute the rainstorm was blowing so hard that the city was gone. I mention this primarily because living in Fresno, I miss summer storms. Heck, I miss summer rain - it dries up in late May & we don't see another drop until late October.

And then, whatever I ate & wherever I went, it was back to the gaming. I had the privilege of playing Volle Hutte, a game I was introduced to at my first Gulf Games (GG2/Panama City Beach). I don't remember which bar I had (I'm usually partial to the Black Pig) but both Matt Albritton & Theresa Vander Ark managed to attract more paying custormers than I. (Thankfully, the other Vander Arks in the game - Dave & Sam - were eating my dust. Esp. Dave... whose score was 1/2 of Sam's!)

Then came a game of Expedition with the newest version of the game: the National Geographic edition. Imagine my surprise when we found that the rules were different and so was the map. My memory is very fuzzy on the rule changes - it'd be nice if someone did a comparison over on the Geek - but I do remember being irritated by them. Curt won, with me only 2 points behind him. Doug & Shelly, Rob Wood & Anne were also a part of the fun.

Next up was a personal favorite, Viva Pamplona. This "running of the bulls" game is lots of fun, and playing it with a Gulf Games crew (Elaine, Larry, Dennis, John P & Peter) only makes it better. I stayed in the middle of the pack, with John playing the coward (11 pts!) and Larry taking the win (37 pts).

Somehow I ended up with the Atlanta contingent at this point in the evening... not that that's a bad thing, but the final four games of the night all involved one or more folks from down Georgia way. The "Peachtree Street" (there are, btw, 17+ Peachtree streets in Atlanta) gaming began with Around the World in 80 Days - the new one. (The older one by Wolfgang Kramer is very good as well - I'd recommend folks give it a try. In fact, you could make an entire night of "around the world" gaming, what with the Krismus card game & Parker Brothers The Magnificent Race.)

I think my only real beef with Around the World in 80 Days is how many times the blue "reshuffle" cards mess over my carefully laid plans... but that's a randomness that you can foresee, so I'm not sure it's a problem with a game. We played with five players (Jack, Jim, Anne & Maria) and the order of finish was very interesting:
  1. Me (77 days)
  2. Maria (84 days)
  3. Jim (66 days)
  4. Anne (78 days)
  5. Jack (DNF)

As you can see, my early finish was eclipsed by Jim's superior use of time - a feature I really like about this game. (It's also one of the things I love about Jenseit von Theben... which is coming out in English in time for my birthday, people - hint! hint!)

I was then initiated into the cult of Gemblo... dang, that's a weird-shaped box & a very large board. I'm pretty good at Blokus, and some of the same skills (recognizing spatial patterns) are essential in this game as well, so that translated into a win for me against players with more experience. (Note: I also got lucky I wasn't getting messed with - another vital "skill" in Blokus.) It's a little harder to see the patterns in this one, but it's still enjoyable. I think the real attraction of Gemblo is that it will play well with 3, 4 or 6 players, whereas Blokus is really only good as a 4 player game (or 2 player with the travel edition). Jack was only one gem behind me, followed by Peter & Maria tied, Mike Green, and finally Anne.

Then the Atlanta crew introduced me to Dancing Dice... a game I liked enough that I've since picked up my own copy. It's a dice game with no down time - amazing! - but it does have a "arrange your dice in secret" element that would make me nervous playing with people I don't know. (The ability to cheat is pretty much unlimited.) Anne went from worst (Gemblo) to first here, outlasting Warren, Shana, Jeanette & myself.

Finally, we played another game of Pizza Box Football... this time Warren & Sheldon (I _think_ it was Sheldon?!) led the Patriots to victory over Curt & I playing the hapless Bills. We were just behind by 3 point lead at halftime that turned into a 13 point lead by the end of the 3rd quarter... but, because the dice in this game HATE ME WITH A PASSION THAT MAKES TELENOVELLAS LOOK LIKE A STEPHEN WRIGHT COMEDY GIG, we managed to score 13 points in the fourth quarter and still lose 43-33. Sigh. (Good thing I enjoy the experience, because I think I've only won one game of this EVER.)

With that defeat, I trundled off to bed.

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