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Subject: Xactika July 19, 2005: In Which I Bid Two Balls rss

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Geoff Dunbar
United States
Hanover
New Hampshire
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The Doctor and I were out with some friends for a Birthday-party bonanza at Trivia Night. Trivia Night has gotten so popular that you need to get there well in advance in order to be seated, so there we were, a noisy room, drinks and food... did you catch the foreshadowing above? A perfect time for Bohnanza! Sadly my copy of Bohnanza was sitting in the cabinet at home, so we couldn't play. Luckily the Fuzzy Brother brought along a little game called Xactika, which he assured us would scratch our itch.

Between people coming and going, we ended up with 6 people playing: myself, the Doctor, the Borrower, Fuzzy, the Neighbor, and KC. Fuzzy (the game owner) was the only one who had played before, so he set out to explain the game; we're a bunch of degenerate gamers so we had the basics in no time. It helps that _most_ of Xactika is a standard trick taking game, with gameplay about the same as Hearts or what have you. The wrinkles of bidding and the weird cards were easily explained.

In truth, I think Xactika was a better choice for this environment than Bohnanza; tricks were quick, people didn't have to pay a ton of attention (the Doctor counting on a subtle nudge whenever it was her turn), and not a ton of hard thinking was called for. We came to the conclusion that to play Xactika _well_, you would need to keep pretty close track of the cards as they went, in that nasty way that good Hearts or Bridge players have. Luckily no one was particularly concerned with playing well. I fell into an immediate hole when that bastard KC overplayed my Ten (on a 2-something bid) with another Ten, giving me minus 3 points. I didn't feel bad when I saw that Fuzzy wasn't getting anywhere either despite his experience playing.

Scoring is done by matching your bid (made before a trick is played) against the number of tricks you actually took. Get it right, you get a positive score of the number of tricks taken. Get it wrong, you get a negative score of how wrong you were. I believe the Neighbor ended up winning our abbreviated game; the scores were all clustered around zero. I got back at that stinkin' KC on the last trick to get a 3 point kick.

We all had a good time playing; a good light game which scales to 10 players. I'm not sure it's a good enough trick-taking game to justify playing over any other trick-taking game, or to justify that it doesn't work with a standard deck of cards, but there are enough little twists that I'm amenable to playing again. Particularly if we have a big group in a loud room.
 
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