Tuesday, January 03, 2006

New Year's Eve gaming

Well, I am finally getting around to writing a session report of my New Year's Eve gathering. Unfortunately, not many from our group were able to attend. Jeff called and his wife was under the weather, so they bailed. Ted and his wife Meredith came and his wife brought the Cherry 7-Up, the traditional New Year's Eve drink for her family as it resembles champagne. Several friends from our church also showed up and with plenty of fatty treats in our stomach, it was time for some games.

With eight of us, the choices were limited game-wise. I decide to break out the classic Pit, mainly because it works best with eight. The game is all about trading, with everyone racing to get a set of nine of the same commodity. The trading is hidden however, so you don't know what you are getting until you get it. It is a very chaotic game with absolutely no opportunity to plan -- if you collect a set, then you are very lucky rather than very good. But it was fun ... we went once around the table and that was plenty. It was a good icebreaker.

Next we broke out Category 5. The idea was to play one more group game and then break up into separate tables. Just as I was explaining the rules, another couple showed up, bringing the total to 10. I really liked the game with 10 players, as all 104 cards are in play. Poor Meredith took a row nearly every turn, and the game was over in two rounds. I could have played more, but everyone was ready to move on. The argument was that the game was too chaotic, leaving no room for tactics. There is an element of chaos and randomness with 10 players, but I argue that there are plenty of tactical decisions every turn, especially if you can remember what cards have been played. Also, good card management is critical.

Next, we played two games of Mafia, with the townspeople winning both times. Unfortunately, there were two detectives, which is way too many in a 10-player game. (In the second game, I had a good chance of winning, until Ted, a detective, outed me as a mafia and the game was over.) I really like the game. I think you need a good moderator and outgoing players who really get into it in order for it to be fun. But as far as large group party games go, it's still a favorite.

Lastly, we broke into two groups. Meredith taught Puerto Rico at one table, while Ted taught Modern Art at another. I finally got to play the top-ranked game at bgg.com, so I was stoked. I think it goes without saying that whenever a game is ranked so high it's bound to disappoint slightly. Overall, I liked the game itself a lot. There are a lot of options each turn and a lot of strategizing and planning ahead, which I really like in a game. I expected a higher learning curve, but Meredith did a great job of explaining the rules. She really whipped everyone, though, so maybe there really is a high learning curve. My biggest complaint with the game is that you really can't affect or influence the other players. In fact, you don't interact with your opponents much at all. This might be more to do with our inexperience than reality (of the four players, three were first timers). Also, although I really liked the mechanic of selecting roles, it seemed that most times everyone benefitted equally from my choice. I could pick something that helped my strategy but helped everyone else equally so I didn't get ahead much. Overall, after just one play, I would rate this game at least a 7, because I like games heavy in strategy, but it might struggle to make my personal top 10 (I would definitely like to play it again though).

At the other table, Ted was involved in a heated art auction. He was also involved in a marathon game of Modern Art - the longest I've ever seen. I am not sure what was going on at his table, but it lasted longer than Puerto Rico (including set up and rules explanations). I don't know much about what happened, other than my friend Seth won.

Overall, I had a fun night. I hope everyone else did as well. I may have found a few recruits for our game nights. My friend Paul and his wife love games, but he is working full-time and taking 18 credits so I doubt we'll see him until May when he graduates. Seth also said he would like to join us on occasion. We'll see if either pan out.


At 12:34 PM, January 03, 2006, Blogger Patrick said...

That sounded like a fun new years. We also played Werewolf at my cabin. It was a new experience for everyone involved except me. They made me moderate about 7 games in a row. It was a blast.

Also played Ninja Burger. Man, that game is the poster child for processing random events. I wouldn't recommend it.

We've also been playing alot of Bang! lately. I really like it. Lots of interaction and a decent amount of strategy. I highly recommend. Especially for 5+ players. I hope to pick up a copy.

At 8:49 PM, January 03, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

I have Bang! and Modern Art on order. One of the best parts of this group is all the great games I'm getting exposed to.

One of my new games, Mall of Horror, is 3-6 players, and looks quick, easy, and fun.

At 8:34 AM, January 04, 2006, Blogger Ted Kostek said...

Modern Art

As Kendahl said, I taught two other folks how to play Modern Art. Since I had only played once myself, and that was several months ago, the teaching went a bit rough at first. The game is actually not hard, however, so the rules soon faded into the background. In my experience all Knizia's games are like that: strange at first, but the rules are quickly internalized.

Once we knew the rules, we experimented a bit with strategy. There was a really large number of paintings auctioned the first round, so that took a long time. I'm not a speedy player, and one of the other players sometimes got stuck in analysis paralysis. Those two things explain why the game lasted longer than expected.


In principle, I love Bang: the theme, the role-playing aspects, the hidden roles. It should be a great game. Both times I've played it, though, it hasn't managed to live up to expectations. Part of that is that I've never played twice with the same group, and the groups always include non-gamers. In fact, one game last New Year's Eve went for like 1.5-2 hrs. Maybe some kind of turn timer would help. I think if everyone has already played a few times, that would help tons.


PR is a lot of fun, but the strategy and tactics are a bit tricky. Most moves help everyone, and so the trick is to find moves that you more than others. Also, the order around the table makes a really big difference. Sort of like cards. You have the most impact on the person to your immediate left. Meredith commented to me on the way home that the person to her right (Rena?) frequently did what Meredith wanted to do, thereby freeing Meredith to take another helpful action. It was like Meredith got two turns in a row.

This thing about helping everyone, however, has the advantage that everyone can feel sort of OK. No matter if you win or lose, you've still built up a little empire.


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