(This was originally posted on Boardgamenews.com)
One of the benefits of having a friend who flies internationally for a major airline is that I can sometimes go along for a low price. This past weekend, Roger had to work a flight to London. We have a couple of friends, Darlene & Diana, who live there, and since Monday was a holiday (both in the US and in England), it was an easy decision to turn the weekend into a quick trip.
Because of the flight schedule, I would only have a little less than 24 hours in London, and it would be over a Sunday, so our options for entertainment were limited. Ever the hopeful optimist, I packed a couple of small games in the event that the opportunity arose. As it turns out, after a picnic in Hyde park, a tour of the city on a double decker bus, showers and a change of cloths back that Darlene’s flat(and catching the end of
Britain’s Worst Wife on the tele) , the sun had set and were having trouble finding a restaurant that was still serving food.
We finally located a pub along the Thames river with an outer patio overlooking the Tower Bridge. They were still serving food, although they had already run out of a couple items on the limited menu due to the late hour. While we were waiting for our food, we started on our ales (although I succumbed to the heavy marketing of advertisements on every car of the underground train that we rode on, and ordered a pear cider) and I broke out the game that I had been carting all over the city.
Playing boardgames rarely subjects me to analysis paralysis. Instead, it’s the act of selecting games to bring to an event that racks my brain with indecision. For a family gatherings, I have to choose games that can be played and enjoyed by children and adults alike. For evenings with friends, I try to consider the number of people who will be playing as well as their gaming tastes. It’s not uncommon for me to take a half hour to decide which games to bring with me.
Since neither Darlene nor Diana were gamers, any game I introduced them to would have to have a easy set of rules. Another limitation was that the game would have to be small since it needed to be packed in an overnight bag. It also had to play well with 4 players.
Oh yeah. The most important thing: It had to be fun.
As we were getting ready to go out for dinner, I knew that I’d have to carry any game with me on the Tube, so I settled on bringing only Aber Bitte Mit Sahne(which translates loosely to “please with whipped cream” and was designed by Jeff Allers), because it comes in a nice small box.
After putting in our order at the bar, I broke out ABMS and went over the rules in about 2 minutes. If you aren’t familiar with the game, the premise is very simple (and very similar to the real life mechanism that my friend Heidi’s parents would use to divide dessert so that there wouldn’t be fighting between her and her brother). It’s an “I divide, you choose” game.
One player makes a pie by laying out 11 random pie-shaped pieces of cardboard. The pieces represent different pies that have differing values printed on them which equals the number of times that kind pie appears in the game. After the pie is laid out, the same player divides the pie into any number of sections, each with one or more wedges of pie.
Then the player to the left chooses one of the sections. When choosing a section, the place can decide to either leave the Then the next player to the left chooses one of the remaining sections. This repeats until the person who split the pie chooses their section. At this point, any remaining wedges are discarded. The next player clockwise then “bakes” the next pie, and divides it up, etc…
When a player takes a section, they can choose to turn any individual wedge face down or keep it face up. Once 5 pies have been split up, the players tally up their scores. Whoever has the most wedges of a type of pie receives the value for that type of pie. For instance, there are 11 wedges of chocolate pie in the game. If one player has the most with 7 wedges, they would score the 11 points for chocolate. Ties for most are friendly, and both players receive the score. In addition, any wedges that had been turned face down by a player are now added to their score. These wedges are worth points equal to the number of dollops of cream(between 1-3) on them. After adding up their points, the player with the most wins.
It’s a reflection of ABMS’s allure that even though we were 4/5ths finished with our game, Darlene insisted that we not put the game away when our food was delivered to our table. I know that as a vice president for Coca-Cola, Darlene has no problem making important decisions, but each time her turn came around in the game, she became very serious. You could tell that she would working out all the possibilities in her head.
After we made room for the food on the table, our server couldn’t ignore her curiosity any longer and had us explain the game. She seemed amazed that the game didn’t have dice or cards and was unlike anything she had ever seen before. I love when that happens!
My fish and chips were delicious, although I didn’t understand why they were accompanied by a sort of mashed pea paste. I knew that the gravy was for the chips, but had to display that I wasn’t a local by asking for ketchup. The waitress didn’t blink an eye, and showed that she was accustomed to tourists by pulling a wad of Heinz packets out of her pocket. I did sample my companions’ meals, but I have to admit, after seeing the movie, Sweeney Todd, I will forevermore be sceptical of “meat” in a pie.
Our food quickly devoured after a strenuous day of leisure, we finished our game. The scores were close but I ended up edging ahead of Darlene by 2 points. Ever the analyst, she reviewed the strategies of the different players afterwards and remarked that Diana could have scored higher if she had turned over some of her tiles and used them for their dollops of cream instead of trying to guarantee such a strong lead in a couple of pie types.
I knew they had been ensnared in my web when Darlene asked where she could find Aber Bitte Mit Sahne, and if I could make a list of good games they could stock their flat with so they could play with their London friends. Luckily for them it’ll be easier to find ABMS in Europe because its publisher, Winning Moves, is based in Germany. The English may call a cookie: a biscuit, and an elevator: a lift, but a good game is a good game no matter which side of the Atlantic you’re on.