How Do I Love the CBBS Game Night? Let Me Count the Ways
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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It was a parsimonious crowd of eight gamers that met in the official CBBS Thunderdome on October 10, 2009. But their hearts were true and their spirit were high, and games would be played on this day. The gamers were Tim, Anna, Nyck, Krista, Counterclockwise Scott, Sandy, Rich, and Zontziry.

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1. Board Game: SET [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:1227]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 6:45pm
End time: 7:25pm


A number of our regular gamers were not going to be here, and as they are the ones who usually show up on time, it was well-understood that the straggle-in period would be somewhat extended. When we finally had enough players on hand to deal a deck of SET at 6:45pm, we thought it would take us up to 7 o'clock, when the real gaming would begin. Little did we know that this was going to be the oddest game of SET in memory.


There were a couple new players in attendence, and when that is the case it is traditional to give them a quick run through of the rules, and then just start dealing out hands. It is much harder to explain what a SET is than it is to just show a few SETs and let new players get it wrong a few times; soon they are finding SETs on their own and everybody is happy and in the mood for more gaming.

From the very first deal, though, things went horribly, horribly wrong. There were no SETs to be had, which embarrassed the veterans and made the neophytes think the game was much harder than it really is. So we added three cards, found a SET, then dealt again - and, once again, no SETs were seen. At first we thought that we were just rusty, and sometimes we can find multiple SETs after everybody swears that there are none - but that was not the situation here. So we gave in, and added three more cards, and thus we stumbled forward, having to add three extra cards much more often than in any time in recent memory. The nadir came when we were discussing whether it was mathematically possible for there to be no SET with fifteen cards - and we then dealt out just such a hand, as memorialized in the picture above.

Finally, our long national nightmare came to an end, at least twenty minutes after one would have expected the game to be over - but we shall not list the players on this day, as such a mutual performance can only bring shame upon all the participants.
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2. Board Game: TransAmerica [Average Rating:6.66 Overall Rank:899]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 7:25pm
End time: 7:50pm


Rich and Zontziry were expected later, so to begin the main gaming session we had the relatively awkward number of six. With the game of SET putting everyone in a foul mood, it was decided that a relatively straightforward game was needed to bring back that gamin' feeling. Hence, Tim, Anna, Nyck, Krista, Counterclockwise Scott, and Sandy met at Table One for a game of TransAmerica.


It is always a little interesting to play a game with new players, as they sometimes come up with different strategies than old hands will consider. I had never seen anyone deliberately place their station on somebody else's city before, but Counterclockwise Scott made a decent argument that there could be some advantages to doing so, especially in a central city, as it causes at least one other player to want to build towards you from the start.

At any rate, Sandy drove her locomotive into the sea at the end of round two, leaving Nyck the winner with 10 iron horses, Tim and Counterclockwise Scott tied with 7 monorails, Anna close behind with 6 streetcars, and Krista with 2 cabooses.
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3. Board Game: Funny Friends [Average Rating:6.47 Overall Rank:1650]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 7:50pm
End time: 9:30pm


We still had the magic number of six players, and with Rich and Z's ETA unknown, another six player game was in order. Thus, Tim brought out the controversial game Funny Friends; it seemed like a good idea at the time, given the set of players of Tim, Anna, Nyck, Krista, Counterclockwise Scott, and Sandy.


Indeed, the theme of the game was mostly well-received and taken in the spirit intended: at least three-fourths parody, as the characters do end up leading pretty twisted, miserable lives. And it's always fun torturing your character in order to fulfill some goal - and, of course, the "sex" markers are usually a big hit.

Unfortunately, the game moved somewhat slower than I had hoped; the auction rules are a little odd, as the auctioneer keeps going until he either wins an auction for a life card or takes some other action, and each auction took some time as everybody tried to figure out if the life cards were worth the time markers they would cost. The mechanisms are actually pretty interesting and unique in this game, and trying to manipulate your attributes in just the right way so you can work your way through your goals is an entertaining puzzle. But this is definitely a game that will improve with experience, as turns will speed up and there won't be as much down time if none of the current life cards will help you.


In this game there were a lot of conflicts over life cards, as several players needed the same things (especially lots of friends). Tim's goals, at least, were mutually contradictory (i.e. one requiring lots of grief, with another removing all your grief), which is usually the way the goals work out, so the order you go for things is important. But you are still at the mercy of the cards, and if the right ones come out you can fulfill a lot of goals in a hurry (and if they don't, you are stuck doing nothing for a while).

The relationship rules are also a little funky, but very clever; I don't know of any other game that has player interaction in just this way, where you can use the offer markers to invite yourself along to another player's experiences, or even benefit repeatedly from their life cards.

And, in fact, Counterclockwise Scott did take advantage of being Sandy's only friend for much of the game, glomming on to most of her activities and getting lots of free benefits (although getting the wrong things can hurt you, so it's not always good to be in this position). Eventually, his gay, addicted, sex machine game designer threw a party to fulfill his fifth goal and win the game.

It was mentioned that we should probably keep the life cards we earn throughout the game rather than discarding them, because it would be fun to look back on all the warped things your character did after the game was over. It wouldn't have any game effects, but in a game this rich in theme, it seems a shame not to maintain the story in as much detail as you can.
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4. Board Game: Dominion [Average Rating:7.67 Overall Rank:72] [Average Rating:7.67 Unranked]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 8:30pm
End time: 9:05pm (dos juegos)


Rich and Z finally showed up halfway through the game of Funny Friends; we shall forgive them their tardiness, as they were driving from Seattle. Nevertheless, they were sent directly to Table Two to play some two-player games (which they probably could have done at home) until the game on Table One was finished. Perhaps out of wishful thinking for how long this might take, they started with a brace of Dominion games.


Game Scholar Zontziry notes that Rich appeared to be winning game one when the final tally revealed Z's one point victory, 37 to 36. In game two, Rich ran the Duke/Duchy strategy (which I have had, at best, mixed success with) to win comfortably, 46 to 39.
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5. Board Game: Stone Age [Average Rating:7.62 Overall Rank:79]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 9:17pm
End time: 9:57pm


Alas, two quick games of Dominion would not prove long enough to get Rich and Z to the reconfig, and thus they broke out the somewhat meatier Stone Age. (Tim notes that he has not yet actually played his own copy of this game, although he's played Stone Age several times.)

Once again Zontziry relates the details of this game. She took a page from Rich's book and focused on lumber in order to get lots of cards, to be used for sets and multipliers. She rolled well enough (and acquired an early tool, which helped) to get the other resources she needed for the tiles, and cruised to victory with 228 points. Rich was less successful getting cards, as he had a few very poor rolls which put him behind the pace, and he finished with a mere 200 points. Z notes that both players probably had too many resources left over at game's end.

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6. Board Game: Pack & Stack [Average Rating:6.43 Overall Rank:1617]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 9:40pm
End time: 10:00pm


Funny Friends finally finished with a few minutes to spare before Stone Age would also end, and so Tim broke out the game he acquired for just this occasion: Zack und Pack. The Zackers and/or Packers were Tim, Anna, Nyck, Counterclockwise Scott, and Sandy.

The first round saw nothing but three and four level cards, after everyone had rolled very few blocks. The best score that round was Nyck's, with an amazing 14 points; I have never seen a lowest score that high before. Things evened out in the next few rounds, but soon Anna lost a big thirty pointer to go negative, leaving Sandy the winner with 46 points, followed by Nyck, Counterclockwise Scott, and Tim, with 26, 40, and 43 points in reverse respective order.
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7. Board Game: Ad Astra [Average Rating:6.89 Overall Rank:905]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 10:20pm
End time: 11:55pm


Four hours into Game Night we finally reached our first reconfig, as with seven gamers left it seemed prudent to break into three- and four-person tables. Rich, of course, demanded Table One to run Ad Astra again for Nyck, Anna, and Counterclockwise Scott; it appears that the only way Tim will get to play this game is to buy it himself or visit Rich and Z in Seattle one of these days.


As might be expected, Rich, the only Ad Astra veteran, won handily with 73 red giants; the race for second was much closer, with Nyck prevailing with 49 blue class Os, to Counterclockwise Scott's 44 brown dwarfs and Anna's 40 black holes.
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8. Board Game: Blox [Average Rating:6.56 Overall Rank:2889]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 10:20pm
End time: 11:00pm


Meanwhile, on Table Two Tim ran the hot new gaming sensation Blox for Zontziry and Sandy.


Z immediately declared this her most favoritest game of all time*, and it does have a lot going for it: simple, elegant rules, a relatively short playing time, plenty of depth but also some luck, and heavy plastic blocks that clack together nicely. There are really only two ideas here (the use of color cards to govern movement and construction/destruction, and the progressive phases where you can build and destroy successively higher towers), but most abstracts benefit from simplicity, and that may be why Wolfgang Kramer decided not to shoehorn some theme on top of this game.

There are some subtleties in play that can hide how important individual moves are; there are no really big scoring turns, so this becomes kind of a race game as you try to keep pace with the points your opponents are getting for building and destroying towers. Thus, bringing in another pawn can waste a turn and cost you points - but it can also increase your flexibility and make it more likely you will draw cards that can help you. And timing is pretty important, as being able to start destroying a new level of towers right away when the phase changes is very helpful.

When the smoke cleared, Zontziry had conquered all, scoring 51 legos to Tim's 45 mega bloks and Sandy's 20 duplos.

[COLOR=#FF0000]* possibly an exaggeration[/BGCOLOR]
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9. Board Game: Roma [Average Rating:6.80 Overall Rank:862] [Average Rating:6.80 Unranked]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 11:15pm
End time: 11:45pm


As expected, Blox was over before Ad Astra, and when Sandy took off, that left just Tim and Z to play, presumably, a two-player game. Fortunately, Roma is a two-player game, and thus it was the game that was played.

Tim was dealt four buildings, and chose to keep the Forum and Basillica, while Zontziry ended up with a couple cards that could be used to bleed victory points from Tim. So the framework of the game boiled down to whether Tim would activate his Forum often (and soon) enough to make up for the points he was losing to Z's Tribunus Plibus and Mercatus, as well as to the empty spots in his tableau. When he didn't roll the Forum for the first few turns things looked pretty dire, but just in time he got a couple big forum scores to keep the game going. By this time Z had used the Haruspex to find her own Forum, but her rolls were not kind, and Tim managed to eat up the remaining victory point chips for a 25 to 15 point win.

The game clearly hinges on the Forums; if you don't have one and your opponent does, you are on borrowed time. In my experience, it's really hard to run someone down to zero VPs when they have a Forum, but if your cards or dice aren't letting you attack that building and you can't find your own your hands are pretty much tied. This may be either a virtue or vice of the game, depending; it will be interesting to see how the upcoming Arena: Roma II will alter this situation.
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10. Board Game: Pico 2 [Average Rating:5.92 Overall Rank:6685]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 11:45pm
End time: 12:00am (three games)


The Ad Astra game was winding down, but it was still not quite finished, so Tim brought out the best three-minute two-player game there is, Pico 2. There is a surprising amount of calculation involved in this eleven-card game; while some hands are clearly superior to others, you are going to swap and play again, so the trick is to try and cash in some cards that your opponent couldn't when they had that hand. For example, the 16 will almost always get scored, unless your opponent has exactly the 4,5,6, and 7. So one shouldn't worry about actually scoring the 16, but using it to keep some other card in thier opponent's hand from scoring. You could say the same thing about the 4 or any other card, as they all beat and are beaten by the same number of cards - but the low cards don't score as many points, so cashing them in at the cost of a higher card may not be worthwhile. And since you know both what you have and what your opponent has, and they can do the same calculations as you, there's an interesting sort of bluffing and not-quite-guessing interplay here.

Tim won the first game 16 to 12, as Z had never played before; she quickly got her sea legs and won the second game, 23 to 19. In the rubber match both players scored 12 points with the "good" hand, but Tim snuck in an extra two-pointer (the 5) while playing the weaker hand, and won 18 to 16.
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11. Board Game: Lectio [Average Rating:6.87 Overall Rank:2287]
Tim Shippert
United States
Richland
Washington
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Start time: 12:07am
End time: ~1:00am


As the final game of the evening, the remaining five players (Tim, Rich, Zontziry, Nyck, and Anna) decided upon Lectio, as it had been a while since that game had hit the table. It also has a good late night appeal, as the rules aren't very complicated (the "1" and "2" tiles notwithstanding), there's some thinking to do, and the tactile and visual elements of the heavy tiles are quite pleasing.

With five people the fivers are pretty important, and there were some agonizing decisions about whether it was worth it to break up other combinations to play a flush or straight. But with only twelve tiles per player, dumping a fiver when you can is usually a good idea - as always, the essential tension in Lectio is between going for the win and trying to cut your losses, but with so few tiles out there it's pretty easy for someone to go out before you know it. So playing a bunch at once is probably the wise thing to do in most situations.

Both Rich and Tim won two hands, with Nyck (I think) winning the fifth. In Round 3 Tim missed a chance to paint Rich with a huge doubled loss when he forgot the red 2 was out; instead of playing the now-top green 2 and then leading his last tile, he played low and let the play go around the table one last time, which let Rich slough his white 2. Despite this epic blunder, Tim just outpipped Nyck at the end, 175 to 169, with Rich very close with 167. First time player Anna had the white 3 in all five rounds, which hardly seems fair, and scored a respectable 132 points. The late hour and a failing memory of Lexio strategery left Zontziry the big loser with 102 points.
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12. Board Game: Miscellaneous Game Accessory [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:3722] [Average Rating:6.98 Overall Rank:71]
Tim Shippert
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Richland
Washington
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Perhaps it was the relatively low number of gamers on this Game Night, or perhaps our biggest snackers were not in attendance, but for whatever reason almost none of the available snacks were eaten anywhere near completion. The bowl Kettle Chips looked as full at the end of the evening as when Tim put them out, the trail mix and chocolate pretzels were barely touched, even the swedish fish and M&Ms were only half-eaten. It is the duty of every gamer to eat as much junk food as they can stomach, or else Tim will face the faustian choice of either throwing it away or eating it himself over the following week. (Some may suggest that he could just save some of it until the next Game Night, but there is a reason why Tim does not buy any junk food for himself...)

The most important discovery of the evening was made when Tim found out that Zontziry actually does not like either the Light Lemonade or the Light Cherry Limeade! Tim had been working under the assumption that all CBBSers loved these two beverages, and thus had not been making available any other choices. She did say she liked the Raspberry Passion-ade, which was, to Tim's knowledge, the general consensus as well, so we will add those to the mix. We shall also try to add in some Fresca or something, especially on those "special" occasions when Rich and Z will be joining us.
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