Saturday, August 05, 2006

Gulf Games 18: Friday (Part 1)

It was still pretty easy to pop out of bed on Friday morning, despite the late game of Dynasty League Baseball the night before... because Friday was the scheduled day for Descent: Journeys in the Dark!

But before we reach that sublime playing experience, gentle reader, we must not gloss over the game that proceeded it: Darkness Falls in Sevinpold. Six of us (James, Earl, Michelle, Kevin Nunn, Greg, & myself) set out to find the Scepter of Power & the Living Throne... opposed by "the darkness" (aka Ted). Alas, while the artwork & bits for the game are quite nice, the gameplay is backgammon crossed with action cards. In the game's favor, it does play quickly with a large number of players, making it an odd but usable filler. OTOH, it's too convoluted to appeal to non-gamer families, while not meaty enough to appeal to gamers. Sigh. Anyway, we managed to get the both of the items & win the game. Darkness is defeated in thirty minutes - woo hoo.

Now, from one end of the fantasy game scale (ridiculous) to the other (spectacular)... we taught Greg Schloesser to play Descent: Journeys in the Dark. (How, you ask, did I manage to convince Greg into playing a game which is legendary for running 4-6 hours? Simple - I told him it would only take 2 hours. Of course, many of you are now asking, "Mark, you are not only a follower of Jesus Christ but also a pastor. How could you lie like that, breaking at least one commandment in the process?" Here's the rub: I didn't lie.)

That's right - we finished a quest (well, the Overlord - that's me -won) in right at two hours. It didn't hurt that Greg was playing with three experienced players (Kyle Berg, Kevin Rozmiarek & Alan Moon)... but the fan-built scenario "The Rescue" is the primary reason we finished on schedule. (For those who've played the game, it's a small scenario with only two treasure chests & no glyphs.)

Things were difficult for me (the Overlord) early on - no spawn cards (which allow me to add monsters to the dungeon) meant I spent a lot of time hoarding threat tokens. They used "Lug" (our nickname for Kevin's bruiser character) to bulldoze into the first room... but then they let him stay behind a bit to kill something. And that's when I started drawing spawn cards. I kept Lug awash in spiders, which couldn't really hurt him, but blocked him from joining the rest of the party. Then, when they opened the wrong door, a heap of hurt triangulated on Alan & blew his character off the map for 4 points. Killing Greg a couple of turns later for 2 points ended the game.

We had a blast - Descent has all the good stuff about your typical dungeon crawl, packaged in a gorgeous & very clean format. I'm still fighting with myself about owning a copy. (And hoping that someone from FFG is reading this blog & thinking, "Gosh, if this guy is such a fan, why don't send him review copies of the expansions?" Not likely - but I can still dream, can't I?)

OK, back to your regularly scheduled Gulf Games coverage.

A herd of mice joined in to play Haba's Hasch Mich! (man, Haba likes those exclamation points, don't they?) - which is essentially a wooden version of the classic game, Pounce. (No, there is no wooden plunger... instead, you have a wooden bowl you slap down on the mice.) It's actually more of an activity rather than a game (there is a point system in the variants to give it some substance) - it's mainly a chance to scream & holler & slam a wooden bowl into a table or scream & holler & yank a mouse so hard it hits you in the face (as it did Robbie Wood). Joining Robbie in this masochistic excerise in noise-making was Anye Sellers, Robbie's dad (hi, Rob!), Emma Samuelson, Kim Berg & Collin McCarthy. The younger mice had such a grand time that they wanted to play again - the adults opted out.

In my case, that meant dragging out an old favorite to play with Ted Cheatham & Rob Wood - Nizza.

Before we get to the game, some background on Rob & Ted's role in my life. Rob was the first gamer I met over the Internet - and I was sufficiently nervous about the whole "could I be inviting an axe murderer into my home?" thing that I actually had him to come to my church... and made sure I had two good friends with me. (Hi, Chris & Buster!) He turned out OK, even if he did make us play Die Hanse.

Rob & I kept getting together to play games - at his home on the far west side of Nashville, at a gaming club I started on my side of town, etc. And then, one evening out at his place, he invited another guy to join us who was visiting in Nashville for business - Ted Cheatham. This was also the night he announced he'd found a much better job with a longer commute - in Tucson, AZ. So, Ted & I exchanged phone numbers... and the next time Ted was in town, we got together for some gaming. (Tikal, if I remember correctly.) Anyhoo, long story short, after about a year of this, Ted invited me to Gulf Games 2. And the rest is history.

Back to your regularly schedule Gulf Games coverage. (Again.)

So, before I dithered off into ancient gaming history, Rob & Ted & I were sitting down to play the much-maligned Kramer game, Nizza. I believe, btw, I've finally figured out why it has such a bad rep. Most people have played it with 4-6 players. Yes, my friends, it's another one of those games that "technically" works with more players (it has enough pieces provided and so on) but actually should be restricted to 2-3 players.

And with that number, we had a good time. Nizza is a game about being a jewel thief in a small European coastal town (Herr Kramer had watched To Catch A Thief one time many times on AMC when he came up with this one). It has a couple of nice mechanics - first, movement is determined using a ladder & "ropes" (which swing from chimneys in the board) rather than moving on some kind of grid. Second, you get to use the various forms of movement and/or grab the loot and/or push your opponent into the water by a Yahtzee-like dice rolling system. If you've avoided this game over the years because it's bad reputation (or because you've never heard of it), I'd suggest giving it a try with 2 or 3 players (but NO MORE than 4!) - you may find a hidden gem.

Ted got ahead of Rob & I late in the game, managing to jump to the boat & climb the ladder into the waiting helicopter to make good his escape. Sigh.

Being a crook was the theme for this part of the afternoon, as Ted & I moved on to play a game high up on my "need to try" list, Ca$h & Gun$. Honestly, I make a pathetic "bad guy" - not only was I unable to reign in Ted's cat burglar tendencies in Nizza, but I also managed to get myself killed in this wild & wooly game of divvying up the loot while pointing guns at each other. (Ted didn't win, though - he was outfoxed by the dynamic duo of Andy Hembee & Tim McCarthy. Joining me in the morgue was Leon Hembee & Anye Sellers.)

And not just imaginary guns, mind you, or finger guns - big, chunky black foam guns. Nothing says "I want you to back off and leave the money on the table" like a pointing a foam gun at someone. (There's even an "expansion" set with a foam shotgun... too funny.)

The game itself is pretty simple - it's a bluffing game with great props. Sad to say that this nifty game will set you back 30+ Euros (more than $40 US w/shipping) - yikes! That dollar threshold is really all that keeps me from getting a copy, as I can imagine this one seeing a lot of play.

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