Friday, October 27, 2006

Hallowe'en Games

Scrabblette, the kid and I are going to a gaming Hallowe'en party on Saturday. What should I take?

The Arkham Horror - a very good game if you're willing to spend 3 hours or more. Theoretically I would have more hours than that, but can I depend on the concentration span of the players?

Lexicon, Scrabble, Boggle, Milleranagrams - good fun to play with Scrabblette and the hostess of the party.

The Great Dalmuti - a good party game, though Scrabblette isn't into card games so much. The host has a decent selection of party games.

PitchCar - always good for large groups, and will keep 8 players occupied.

Betrayal at House on the Hill - despite the bad rules, a great experience game. Not too long, and always interesting.

Fearsome Floors - I think it's about time we started playing with the advanced obstacles. Not a deep game, but one that allows good player interaction and takes a decent number of players without lasting too long.

Gloom, Unhappy Homes - I've owned the (first) expansion for a long time and never played it, so I think I'd better take it along.

Goosebumps - I have a selection of Goosebumps games, none of which I enjoy. So despite them being appropriate, I'll probably leave them at home.

Mystery Rummy - I have 3 of these games, all of which I like, but Scrabblette is not into card games. Can she be won over?

Nacht der Magier - What better Hallowe'en game than one that's played in the dark? I do like playing games in the dark with Scrabblette.

Any other ideas? Here's what I own.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Not Crokinole

I was shopping in the Indian grocery store with Scrabblette on the weekend, and the most interesting thing I managed to find was a bottle of cherry-flavoured syrup. I'm not going to say why that was interesting to me because Scrabblette reads this blog. Anyway, Scrabblette shouts out to me and points excitedly at the Carrom boards that I've walked past in that shop a dozen times. Crokinole is more famous on the 'geek - 447 users owning as compared to 173 for Carrom, but I haven't been able to find a Crokinole board in Australia. So a Carrom board at my local Indian grocery store was a pretty good find. Even better, it was only $A90 - an absolute bargain for a game which is effectively a piece of furniture.

We took it home, bathed it in baby powder, and played a few games with my sister's family while Scrabblette cooked up an absolute feast. How did you celebrate Diwali?

I quite like the game, I hope we will play it a lot in years to come. The issue will be not so much getting it to the table as finding somewhere other than the table to put it. And cleaning up all the baby powder.

Let Me Talk About Essen Too!

Although I am stuck at work in Australia, I can't help but be excited about the new games being released in Essen. Here's what I'm interested in, or otherwise.

Leonardo da Vinci: I'm interested in playing, but it hasn't got my interest enough to want to buy it.

Taluva: A must-have for me. Very pretty, almost abstract, plays quickly - many of the things I like.

Hameln: I picked up a copy of Shear Panic last week, and I've decided that Fragor games are simply must-buys. Even if the game sucks I can use them to amuse small children. BTW, Shear Panic is a decent game.

Anasazi: I know almost nothing about the game but I love the theme so I'm going to continue watching it.

Fiji: I've had good experiences with Friedemann, and a game about shrunken heads has to be a good thing, so I'm going to get it. Mara's art is always awesome as well.

BattleLore: I have a 10yo son who liked Memoir '44, and loves the fantasy theme. I guess I'll be buying this for a few years yet.

Emira: I'm always attracted to games with controversial themes, and I owe it to my game buddies to buy a gamer's game every now and then. You can't have too many games about hot women.

Silk Road: I was very keen to support Bruno and Ted, but when I discovered it used that horrible "someone misses out on the auction" mechanic, my interest fell away sharply. I'm very interested in the theme, but are the bits beautiful enough to support a mechanic I dislike?

Graenaland: I like the theme, but need to find out more about the game. Maybe I'll just look forward to playing it.

Formidable Foes: I only just realised this one existed. Same comments as above for Friedemann, though the theme doesn't appeal to me as much as for Fiji.

Khan Tsin: I know nothing, but I'm always up for a good 2 player abstract. It looks nice.

Well there goes a couple of months discretionary spending... On a slightly related note, I only own 4 games published this year. However I own 33 published last year. I guess I won't get most of these till next year :-(.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Great Dimwitty

I took Scrabblette along to Book Realm on Wednesday night. We played Elfenland, then I narrowly avoided playing Ticket to Ride by suggesting The Great Dalmuti. For those who don't know, The Great Dalmuti is a simple shedding game (a card game where you're trying to get rid of your cards) with some very fun conventions regarding the behaviour of the players. The currently winning player is referred to as the Great Dalmuti, and the second place player is the Lesser Dalmuti. The last player is the Greater Peon and the second-last player is the Lesser Peon. The Great Dalmuti gets the best chair and is waited on hand and foot by the Greater Peon who sits on a box and has the added responsibility of gathering the cards, shuffling and dealing. A lot of the fun in the game is in the interaction between the Dalmutis and the Peons.

I started as the Lesser Dalmuti and got myself promoted. Justin became the Greater Peon so I bossed him around as much as I could - telling him to hurry up, abusing him for the bad cards he gave me, and generally giving him a hard time. Justin played along wonderfully, bowing humbly and tugging his forelock and apologising at every opportunity. I even got bored and told him to abuse himself for a while. I'm glad he interpreted that in the family-friendly way. I had a good run, and spent quite a few rounds as the Great Dalmuti, and eventually Scrabblette became the Greater Peon. What Great Dalmuti could resist? "Greater Peon, give me a kiss!" The Greater Peon obeyed, as she should. In fact, the Greater Peon had a fine time playing footsies with the Great Dalmuti. Until Justin became the Great Dalmuti, at which point I directed him that he wasn't to kiss the Greater Peon no matter how fine a Dalmuti he was.

I had a lot of fun playing that game - it's a bit of a party game, but it rewards skill and there's lots of opportunity for showing your personality. Since then Scrabblette has forgotten her station in life and continued calling me the Great Dimwitty. It's hard to get good peons these days.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Two Player Games

Long-time readers of this blog will know that I occasionally foist my personal life upon you. In fact, some of my family and friends read it simply because I don't otherwise tell them anything about what's happening. So for that purpose, I'd like to introduce you to the latest character in my game, Scrabblette. Let's clear up any confusion - Scrabblette is NOT my Chinese Lost Cities partner. Scrabblette is so-named because her English language skills exceed mine, and playing Scrabble against her is an intimidating prospect. But I'm quite an adventurous guy...

Scrabblette is in training to become my Tichu partner. Yes, it's that serious. CyberKev's plan to turn my love life to his own ends is progressing well. In the interests of understanding Tichu when we do get to play it, we have played Gang of Four and The Great Dalmuti. Tichu is a little more complicated than either of those, but that gives it the depth that makes it a great game. I would like to play Frank's Zoo as well, but we haven't had a chance yet.

So, things are progressing well. Stay tuned.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What Makes a Really Great Game?

Some games are fun. Some games are interesting. Some games are more than that. I tried the other day to explain to an email correspondent why I like games, and I think I had an insight - games are a world in which players can interact in ways that are not permissible in the real world, and a great game is a game that supports richness of that interaction. The game is an abstract lens through which players can see each other as they could be.

What does that mean? Take Carcassonne as an example. It's often the case that I have a tile that could be played to help you or to hinder you. I can choose to be nice or nasty. In the real world, I would choose to be nice. In the game, I can choose to be nasty and you won't resent it in the real world. I can also choose to be distant from you, or in your face. Our relationship in the game may be quite different from our relationship in the real world. The game lets us interact in ways we never would in real life.

I play many abstract games (Gipf series, Gobblet, Quoridor) against by brother-in-law BIL. In those games I often find a particularly cunning move which lets him know that I've seen what he was up to and I've found a foil to it AND I've backstabbed him at the same time. His inevitable comment is "Oh, you bastard!" And he sometimes does the same thing to me. As abstracts are particularly easy to make stupid mistakes in (Gobblet has a rule that if you touch a piece you must play it), we also act much stupider on average in the game than in real life.

In a game you can be aggressive, nasty, annoying, nice, tricky, cunning, aloof, bizarre, and in general behave in ways you can't do in real life. Citadels, which I played again last night, allows for a large range of nasty and tricky behaviour which you wouldn't otherwise get away with. It's a great game, though emotions do tend to seep into real life a little.

I find two player games to be particularly good, probably because each player has more control and can express more of their personality through the flow of the game. Even Scrabble (which must be played two player to be at its best) supports all the things I've mentioned. I've been known to play a fairly poor word down the side of the board mostly with the intention of keeping my opponent away from the Triple Word Score. Nasty, but accepted behaviour. And if my opponent didn't do it to me I'd wonder what she was up to.

The GIPF Project games are great, but I find them a little too abstract to express a great depth of player emotion, which is why I haven't rated any of them a 10 despite having very high regard for them. I think you just need a little more complication, such as you find in Trias or Domaine or Citadels, to be a really great game.

I think I'll eventually explore this idea further. Opinions?

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Love in the Time of Carcassonne

CyberKev has been bitching that I've been in a blogging drought, to which I have the answer he should have expected - there's a woman involved! And if at any time there's not a woman involved, it's the lack of a woman that's causing trouble. In any case, my life is as finely balanced as a game of Puerto Rico - there's only 168 hours in the week, and you can follow the Love Life strategy or the Game Geek strategy, and the more you do of one the less you do of the other. Maybe I should rename this blog "Sex and the Single Gamer". But that would be misleading :-(. Anyway, CyberKev should be grateful that he has managed to hijack my love life and turn it into a quest for a 4th for Tichu.

So, on Sunday I went to visit my sister who has introduced me to hardly any of her single friends. I wanted to play a game with her and the kids, but Dogville was too long and Escape From Atlantis only takes 4, and there's 5 or 6 of us depending on whether BIL is playing. In desperation as I rushed out the door I grabbed Carcassonne. It's like going out on the prowl and having nothing to wear but a faded pair of jeans. So embarrassing to be seen playing something so dowdy.

Of course, my sister hadn't played it before, and it was completely new to the kids, so I had to teach them how to play. Out of respect for the newbies, there were no such things as farmers, not even lying-down ones. Anyway, it was disturbing seeing people who didn't know how to play Carcassonne. It was new to them. It was like seeing someone discover the sky was blue, or that you could drink water. Or that chicks really dig faded jeans.

Anyway, son and sister conspired to build a big city. I could see myself getting shut out of the game, so I tried to invade and they blocked me. I tried to invade again and succeeded in preventing them from completing the city. Meanwhile, I started a small city and was joined by 5yo nephew. As there were no farmers, I invested in a lot of roads as well - I had my guys out working for me! Son could have played better by taking small points with his extra meeples, but he just doesn't get that every point counts. Oh, and everybody loved doinking - you can't knock a game where doinking is taken seriously.

My attacks on the big city succeeded in keeping son and sister out of the winning position. Niece played respectably but didn't get involved in any major cooperation. Nephew made enough points out of our city to get into second place, but I beat him by about 5. They did seem to like the game - building a city, meeples, doinking - it does have a lot going for it. And finally they know what my Meeple People shirt is about.

On the same evening BIL and I played a few games of Gobblet, yet another of my underplayed two player abstracts. It's a very good game as well, though not quite as popular as Quoridor. We'll have to play more because we're still not out of the "losing due to stupid mistakes" skill level.

Anyway, enough blogging. I've got a strategy to execute.