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Subject: Sunday afternoon rock-hunting rss

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Stephen Smith
United States
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First Game: Niagara

This past Thursday evening, my younger daughter asked if she could play the waterfall game. Translated into actual games that I own, she wanted to play Niagara. I was more than happy to do that. However, since we were about to eat dinner, I told her it would have to be after we ate. Since she had already offered to set it up, I told her she would have to take care of that. For some reason, she was very distracted after dinner and forgot all about the game until earlier today. At that time, she asked if we could play a game. I suggested the game she forgot about earlier in the week. She immediately became very excited and dashed off to get the game ready for play. After it was all set up, daughter number one wanted to join. Then, as we were taking our first turn, Christine asked to join as well.

I always like it when Christine decides to play with us. For one, I just like having her play. The second reason involves gameplay. When the girls and I play a 3-player game, it is not terribly uncommon for all three of us to play relatively high paddle numbers, thus pushing the river along at a fairly brisk pace. However, for some reason, that fourth player really slows things down. I find that we rarely ever end up with a river speed of greater than three. Since we play (relatively) friendly games, we rarely see the river level pushed up. I guess I should mention that since we are playing nice, we do not play with the rule that allows you to steal gems.

So, at the beginning of the game, I try to get some of the gems that are closer to the fall, so I usually pick out a number in the middle, hoping my first boat benefits from a little bit of river flow. This did not help me so much. By the second turn, though, I had picked up a yellow and a white -- not exactly the start I needed. I then began to work to get these back to the beaches. Unfortunately, I managed to get them both bak at the same time. I really try to avoid this as it always seems to just slow things down.

At this point, I begin to head back down the river. I figure that this time around I'll try to go for the pink and blue gems. Blue seems to be pretty straightforward -- most of the time. Pink on the other hand, is often more of a challenge. So, I was able to get the pink I wanted. However, I was having trouble setting myself up for the pink. I ended up having to get a second yellow. That was all right because on my next turn, with some help from the river, I was able to trade it for the pink. While I was doing this, my other boat made it's delivery. I was now able to send it back for the purple gem. By the time I arranged that, I was able to get my other boat back up the river and move the two of them off.

Daddy has five different gems.
Christine and daughter one each have three gems.
Daughter number two has two gems.

Another interesting side effect of playing with four instead of three is that the river is a lot more crowded. Although I've never played with the theft rules, I can certainly see how that would be an interesting addition to the game, particularly with this many people. In fact, I would very much like to try it in a four-player game sometime. Maybe not so much with only three. I think that allowing theft would make the other two victory conditions more likely. As it stands, we always finish when someone gets one of each gem. With theft, I think it would not only be easier to get four of a kind or seven total, but it would be a lot harder to get that pink gem and hold onto it.

I also think the girls are getting better at their maneuvering. For the most part, they don't see their canoes go over the falls all that often. In this game, daughter number two did lose one of hers, but I think this was somewhat on purpose -- just to see it go off. Pretty soon I expect them to start showing some evidence of planning out their moves more than one turn at a time. I can hardly wait.

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