It had been well over five hundred hours since our last Game Night, so on May 16, 2015 nineteen gamers walked down the aisle to the Official CBBS Gaming Basement, where they played games, ate finger food, did the chicken dance, and shot each other with crossbows. Tim, Andy, Eric 5, Jerry, New Eric, Tycho, Counterclockwise Scott, Nyck, Suzi, Elden, Nathaniel, Shawn, Ian, Leif, Rachel, Scott, Birgit, Kory, and Eric 4 all caught the bouquet.
Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you an historic round of Ricochet Robots:
Jerry, Andy, Eric 5, Eric 2, Ian, Tim, Tycho, Counterclockwise Scott, Nyck, Suzie, Elden, and Nathaniel all found at least one solution. That adds up to twelve out of seventeen chips earned by different solvers.
That's probably a record.
(Which is why this was historic, in case that wasn't clear.)
To begin the actual portion of Game Night where we play real games, Tim, Andy, Tycho, Shawn, and Ian gathered solemnly at Table One to play The Staufer Dynasty, quietly and without undue enthusiasm.
The Staufer Dynasty is one of those games where you fight for given bonus tiles that give you a variety of benefits. One of those things are purple flag tiles, which you cash in for a permanent advantage, like moving or placing workers for cheap or to score points or horn in on someone else - basically, a kind of one-level tech tree. Typically in a game like this, those tech advances are pretty important, so it was no surprise that everybody grabbed all the available purple tiles right away.
That meant Tim, who started late in the first round, had to try something else. Tech advances are fun! But Tim wasn't allowed to have fun in this game, at least not early on, so he had to, boringly, just score in-game points instead. He ended up with tiles that gave him more fellers and scored straight up points, and because he wasn't fighting for purple tiles he could get the early positions to win the scoring regions. It was kind of boring, but it gave him a substantial lead at the midpoint - although the other players seemed to have more versatility going forward.
In the penultimate round, everybody was (of course) starting to set up their end-game scoring cards, which required presence in particular regions, in patterns of regions, and in cities of particular values. But! Then Tycho grabbed the last spot in the red region (the gothic script prevented your humble narrator from ever figuring out the actual names of the provences) with his noble, in anticipation of the final round, when that region was going to score. Furthermore, everybody was using that region to base their pattern-matching end-game scoring, which were worth a ton of points. But what nobody, including Tycho, realized until it was too late was that Tycho's action would place the most workers in that red region, which caused it to score in that second-to-last round as well - and when a region scores, all the workers are removed. So everybody's plans for the final round were disrupted, and we all had to scramble to fix them.
Tim, fortunately for him, had a turquoise tile that allowed him to not remove his red region noble after scoring, but he was messed up in another way - the region that was supposed to score (and therefore open up) was still full of workers, and Tim really needed that region to score his pattern card. Fortunately for Tim, he went second in the final round, so he was able to grab a second spot in the red region - which happened to have one of those purple tiles on it. Everybody else was scrambling to get position for final scoring, so nobody took the second purple tile Tim needed from the worker board - and that tile allowed him to grab the "Horn in" tech advance, which, finally, allowed Tim to force his way onto that full region and complete his 18 point pattern card.
In the end that was enough to push Tim to a comfortable victory, with 93 points. Tycho had also been shut out of early tech advances and thus also built up his in-game scoring - which eventually pushed him to 78 points and second place. Andy was hurt the most by the change in scoring regions in the penultimate round, and he ended up with 72 points. Shawn seemed to have a lot of tech advances and people all game long, but for some reason he wound up with just 69 points, while Ian fell to 64.
It is interesting that the coveted purple tile strategy wasn't all that successful; other strategies might be stronger, or it might just have been that the swerve on the final round messed everybody up. Tim was pretty lucky that the tiles he needed to recover were available, and that everybody else's recoveries forced them not to (intentially or otherwise) take those key tiles. On the other hand, Tim had a point lead all game and thus had points to give, so he was in a better position to weather the unexpected.
To kick off Table Two, Birgit, New Eric, Jerry, and Suzie all indulged Elden's Santiago fetish. Elden likes this game because it is mean and has bananas.
Birgit scored 1+12+7+28+5=53 Elden scored 12+12+4+28+14=70 New Eric scored 11+18+4+1+20+2=56 Jerry scored 14+24+2+14=54 Suzie scored 4+4+35+7+2=52
So it was a really close game - except for Elden, who scored better on his side fields and thus was the weiner. This looks like a really interesting playout for this game - usually somebody is able to cash a big eight or nine tile field (and basically nothing else), although this is harder with five players, and perhaps there was more blocking and horning than your humble scribe is used to.
Table Three sped through the apocalypse with plenty of time to spare, so they decided to fight their wizards (not a euphemism), too, via Wiz-War (eighth edition).
Counterclockwise Scott, matched the shiftiness of his Yellow Wizard by stealing two treasures for the victory. Kory's Red Wizard imprisoned Nyck's Green Wizard, which is always good for some laughs, while Nathaniel's Blue Wizard probably also did some stuff.
Table Two would need a filler game, as Table One was still slogging away, so they broke out Coloretto, a really good game about colors and chameleons and stuff. Nah, it's not about anything - it's just a set collection game, with a really good and elegant set of mechanics.
Astonishingly, they ended up with a three-way tie, as Suzie, Jerry, and New Eric all wound up with 32 points. Therefore, they are all disqualified, so Elden wins with 29, followed by Birgit with 17.
Nah, not really. Those three guys rejoiced in their shared victory, while the other two drank the bitter tears of defeat.
Now, for some reason, Table One had a few minutes to kill, so Tim got out his insane pattern-matching real-time game Like Dice and puzzled out the rules (those tiny rulebooks are no friends to those of us with aging eyesight).
We played a few rounds, and then broke up for the reconfig; we'll give more details on the gameplay later.
For the reconfig, Nyck, Kory, Ian, Eric/k 4, Eric 2, and Nathaniel played a couple of games of new Spiel des Jahres nominee, Colt Express.
In Game One, Nyck snuck away with the victory, earning $1750 in diamonds, rubies, cash, and bullets, to Ian's $1600, Kory's $1550, New Eric's $1400, Eric 4's $1250, and Nathaniel's $1000.
In Game Two, Nyck once again punched, shot, jumped, and climbed his way to victory, scoring $2400. New Eric earned $2250, Kory scored $1900, Eric 4 got $1350, Nathaniel achieved $1050, and even Ian made a grand. Who knew that holding a running gunfight on a moving train could be so profitable for all involved?
Start time: 9:23pm, 10:40pm End time: 10:36pm, 10:56pm
Suzie could not keep herself from forcing Jerry, Tycho, and Birgit into exploring the new Dominion: Adventures expansion on Table Two - twice.
In Game One, Birgit reigned supreme with 30 points, followed by Tycho, Jerry, and Suzie with 28, 21, and 18, respectively. Birgit then left, allowing Suzie to score a 45 point victory over Jerry (39) and Tycho (27) in Game Two.
For a civ game, Uruk II: Die Entwicklung geht weiter has a very interesting lack of complexity. There is a tech-building arc, but most of the cards do mostly the same kind of thing (getting or transmuting resources, or scoring points at the end). There are only four resources to consider, and those are almost (but not quite) completely isomorphic. There's not really a lot of ways to score - get high cards, build cities on them, maybe cash a level 3 tech at the end. You can see (and plan for) the disasters and challenges to come.
But for all that, this is not really an easy game to play. The winning differential is all in the margins - you can't be a lot better at somethings and a lot worse at others; instead, you have to all follow the mostly same path, and to win you must figure out a slightly better way of navigating it than your opponents.
Tim started out by getting a bunch of level 2 cards that allowed him to get any resource twice in one turn. That gave him a lot of flexibility, and allowed him to build up a lead on settlements (the civ cards pretty much prevented city building until the second half) - but the actions he spent doing that meant he wasn't drawing a lot of cards, and he couldn't find any synergy with the level 3s and 4s he was drawing.
By the midgame, Tim's game had stagnated, and the other players seemed to be much more effective at getting both cards and resources. The real killer came when one of the god cards gave the leader in Settlement tokens one card - and the other players three. Tim was both card poor and Settlement rich, and that put him permanently behind, as the other players were soon able to get sequences that both advanced their positions well and ended up scoring big on the end.
When the final round was finished, Shawn had scored 29 points via a couple 4 point cards doubled with Cities and two of the level 3 end-game scorers. Andy had managed to get to 27 with his good set of non-action resource conversion abilities, while Elden made a late push to end up with 26, and would have scored significantly more had the game gone one more round. Tim's civilization went the way of the Anasazi, disappearing in the mists of time with its insignificant 22 points.
Then Nyck, Tom, and Eric 5 invaded the Lounge in order to play something called Xia: Legends of a Drift System, which sounds suspiciously like one of Ian's non-games.
They claim that Nyck scored 8 "points", and, since the game was to seven, that he was the "winner". Tom scored 3 or 4 points (I can't tell which is overwriting the other), while Eric 5 scored, appropriately, five points. Hooray!
At this time, we all gathered around Table One to join hands, sing Kumbaya, and play Concept. There was actually an earlier round of this on Table Three, which you can see on that video, but as this isn't really the kind of activity you score, nobody filled out a scoresheet for that. They didn't really for this, either, so you'll have to deduce from the photographic and video evidence who was actually involved.
For the most part, this is a fun activity where you choose a phrase or person or thing or whatever, and then try to communicate what it is to the others by indicating relationships between various vague pictograms. So, if you put a marker on human and a similarly colored cube on small, you would get "baby". Add in an animal linked with water, and a mouth, the main question mark on "saying", and you got the well-known saying "baby fish mouth".
So, you do that until you get tired of it, and whoever solves each puzzle gets to feel superior for a bit. I guess you could score points or some damn thing, but why bother with that.
It doesn't always go smoothly though - here is a video of twelve-and-a-half minutes of failure as we simply could not find the right words to solve Ian and Andy's clue. It is kind of fun watching New Eric's brain literally melt out of his head, though. (And I'm not going to tell you the solution - you gotta watch the whole thing to find out.)
Because we are crazy, some subset of us then completely agreed and were in no way coerced into playing Like Dice, even though it was one-thirty in the morning.
So, you have one or more cards in front of yourself, and there are three communal cards, then you flip up a rule card and you try to be the first to correctly add up the pips on the appropriate dice on you card plus the communal one. So, you might total the largest red and the smallest blue dice on your set, or all the purple, yellow, and green, or all the 1s,3s,and 5s. Or, you might to rank all your dice from high to low by color and then number, and then take the value of the fourth highest die.
If you win, you are punished severely by having to take one of the communal cards, so now your set of cards is larger and finding the solution to the next puzzle is that much harder. Fun!
We went through the whole deck, and while some of us had more cards than the others, everybody lost. Wait! Everybody won, because this is amongst the greatest games ever! Hooray!
But we were not done! Because Tim had yet another new game (or expansion, this time) to foist upon his unsuspecting compadres - the Las Vegas Boulevard expansion to Las Vegas. Tim, Jerry, Andy, Nyck, New Eric, and Tycho were the gamers, because Las Vegas Boulevard allows six players. Zounds!
We played with the Big Die, which counts as two, and the Neutral Dice (for which we still needed to raid the grey dice from Alea Iacta Est, as they gave us just two extra white dice, which is enough for five players, but not six), because it was too late to figure out the cards and the kicker dice and Tim didn't realize the extra casino (where you can put any dice that don't match dice already there) was just a card and not a full board. So we barely used the Las Vegas Boulevard expansion at all, except for the extra dice colors that allowed six players.
Anyway, this game played out like all games of Las Vegas do - some people got hosed by the dice, and by the dice that other people rolled (why you gotta roll fours and horn in on my perfectly fine set there?). In the end, Tim and Tycho were fighting for victory, but Tim got locked out on the fourth round when Jerry and Andy kept rolling twos and fours, and Tycho prevailed with $350K. Jerry snuck in for second place with $320K, while Tim ended up with $300, Ner Eric scored $240K, Nyck wound up with $220K, and Andy made a specialty of getting locked out but still walked away with $180K.
So everybody made tons of cash in Vegas, just like in real life.
For some reason, we got a lot of junque to eat this time around, and eat we did. The Chocolate Enrobed Macro Donuts went instantly (I'm still gonna get six packages of those some Game Night and call it good), as did, eventually, the Fruit Slices (which contain zero actual fruit), the Dark Chocolate and Lemon Yogurt Almonds, the Orange Creme Cookies (which, weirdly, were in the Asian Foods section), the Sugar Free Wafer Cookies, the Fat Free Fig Newmans, the Dipped Pretzels, and the Extra Large Peanut M&Ms (which didn't seem all that big to me, but whatever). Also the Beef Jerky. There were a few Deluxe Nuts and Lemon snaps left, and lots of Garlic, Salt and Pepper, and Pepperoncini Kettle Chips and Spicy Sweet Chili Doritos left over. Maybe we were all sugar crazy and left our salt teeth at home.
"Cock and Bull" Ginger Beer? Kickapoo Joy Juice? I can't decide if these things are stupid or awesome or both.