Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Highly Abbreviated Session Report

Not too much to report from Monday gaming, so I'm keeping it short and picture free for a change. Jon and I kicked off with baseball, and by the time Jeff got there baseball was being played 6 deep by Dennis, Brian, Jon, Scott, Sean and myself. Mercifully we ended eventually and after a brief blizzard interlude, Sean, Jeff, Jon and I got a game of Tichu in. After that concluded I watched Dennis and Chris finish up their baseball game and then Sean, Brian, Dennis and I tried Control Nut.

To summarize. It is a trick taking game with a standard 52 card deck that has been rethemed with "nut" suits and a preplay bidding mechanism that seems to offer some depth but felt chaotic to me in the absence of some sort of prearranged discussion (similarly I could see how bridge's auction mechanic could feel difficult if you just explained the rules to 4 people, gave them a pack of cards and said go).

To be honest, I really really dislike when card games attempt to retheme the standard 52 card deck. Anyone who has played any amount of card games has basically been programmed to think in Aces, Kings, Spades etc, and to all of a sudden have to remember instead nuts and 1-13 instead becomes a problem. This may seem like a minor complaint, but I think it is very valid and a huge sticking point to the ability to enjoy the game. Basically, if it acts like a deck of cards it really should look like one as well.

Tichu has a similar flaw in that the standard suits have been replaced with random weird suits, but since the rest of the deck looks the same and the suits, for the most part, don't factor in, this doesn't bother me.

Being able to name the trump suit seems at least at the moment to be dominant. Even on the last hand when I held at the beginning a 5332 equivalent of a 2n opener with very little out of the short suits that I could give away happily, which ballooned to a good 6443 25 count by the time the auction phase was complete, guaranteed no ability to do well in the hand. On the last round of the auction what I really wanted to do was overtake Brian barely with a signal to Sean that would beg him to choose my 6 card suit but barring discussion there was no clear way. So I elected to do the equivalent of defending and was able to take very few points (relatively)that way. Given that the control cards are for the most part very powerful, if a decent method for communication between hands were worked out, I don't see any reason that the game would not degenerate into a situation where people go all out to be able to pick the trump suit and especially go all out to split the trump suit somewhat between the two hands and grab the timer card thing with one of them.

Overall, not a hugely favorable overall impression.


At 9:43 AM, August 14, 2007, Blogger seanp said...

I wasn't firing on all cylinders during Control Nut, so I'll have to give it another go when I have more concentration ability, but here are a few thoughts:

Controlling trump (as in any game where you can) is huge, and setting up your hand (and your partners) is key to getting a big hand. It really is a game of trying to maximize your good trump hand, and minimize damage when your opponents have trump. The last hand we controlled damage pretty well, just because the cards were very evenly distributed from the start. My "hand draw" card helped us out quite a bit too.

At 10:20 AM, August 14, 2007, Blogger Dennis Ugolini said...

I really liked Control Nut -- it felt like Pinochle done right. In Pinochle, you deal, then expose melds for points, then put them back into your hands and play out the tricks. So good hands get more points just by luck (it's like Honors in Bridge times ten), and with so many cards exposed, the cardplay is rote. Here the cards you expose can convey information, and you can knowingly rather than randomly influence the shape of your opponents' hands by how you pass.

I agree about the annoyance of the goofy suits, but having the ranks be 1-13 helps with the auction phase.

My guess is that two things would, over time, balance the power of calling trump:

1. Forcing the last card's auction price up higher. It generally went for the low- to mid-20s, which is way too cheap. Even a bid of 25 can be composed of 13-6-6, and after giving the 13 to your partner, you have scarcely hurt the power of your combined hands. It needs to go for 30+ to get high cards into opposing hands.

2. Only clearing a singleton or void if you know you'll be calling trump. In the second hand y'all ditched 3-4 "Buckeyes" onto us, I assume because you were short in it. But that allowed us to call the trump suit of doom, and your shortness didn't help. My guess is that with more experience, we'll be passing to create more balanced hands rather than unbalanced ones.

At 11:40 AM, August 14, 2007, Blogger seanp said...

Dennis, you're exactly right on creating better balanced hands. If you're going to short yourself, you'd better be darn sure you're getting trump, and that it's worth it when you do.

One more comment on the suits... I like the "nut" theme. But the shapes of the nuts weren't diverse enough, and the color scheme made it hard to fasten into my memory. We had yellow, orange, brown, and yellowy-orange... much too similar for me.

At 6:37 PM, August 14, 2007, Blogger Ben said...

Besides baseball and card games, were any actual board games played?

At 6:47 PM, August 14, 2007, Blogger Michael said...

I don't think so unfortunately.

At 7:49 PM, August 14, 2007, Blogger Brian said...

Sadly I went to get food right before Tichu broke out, which put a damper on board games. I was hoping to try Phoenicia, but it will have to wait until next week.

At 9:22 PM, August 14, 2007, Blogger Chris said...

What's a board game?

At 9:03 PM, August 15, 2007, Blogger Rob said...

What's a card game?

At 9:04 PM, August 15, 2007, Blogger Rob said...

Is it like trivia/party games?


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