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Subject: Mr. Food Unmasked! rss

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Geoff Dunbar
United States
Hanover
New Hampshire
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Our house was overrun with relatives for Thanksgiving, though sadly much of the "younger" generation (and converts to the Settlers revolution) were not around. So, for our evening of gaming we had myself, the Doctor, the Gruncle, the Moon, the Teenage Punk, Mr. Food, Nana, and Tata. Casting about for games to play, I quickly ruled out RoboRally; I can't imagine this crowd of non-gamers trying that one. We had some other games that work with seven, and when the Gruncle bowed out (preferring to read instead of play), we pulled out Shadows Over Camelot, on the theory that a group game would work well with newbies because we could help each other out. The Doctor and myself had played before, while the rest of the crew had not.

First we proceeded with the explanation. The Doctor, following several glasses of wine with dinner, was showing a very bad attitude and insisted on laughing and rolling her eyes as I explained. She is always the gaming skeptic during the explanation phase, believing that her husband is a big geek (true) and that no one could possible want to play this dorky game with him (often untrue). So we explained the basics, and then decided to proceed with the playing on the theory that things would clear up as we went. I noted that Tata spent an inordinate amount of time looking at his "Loyal/Traitor" card... perhaps we've pegged the villain?

Early on there was some confusion, as people were both unclear on what they _could_ do, and what they _should_ do. Mr. Food stayed in Camelot for a number of turns drawing up to the maximum, while the rest of us dispersed on a wide variety of quests. Myself and a couple of others (the Punk, I think, and someone else) embarked on the most virtuous quest for the Holy Grail, and had some success before having to return to Camelot for reinforcements. Tata was able to tackle Lancelot's quest and get some decent cards down; due to the seven player game the Black cards filled up, but fortunately he had played just enough cards to win the quest 14 to 13.

Midgame, things began to speed up as most players figured the basics out and turns went faster. The Moon was helpless, though, and shrugged her shoulders and scowled every time her turn came up. Her son the Punk was much better, and probably caught on to the game faster than any of the rest; we'll have to cultivate his gaming in future visits. Our quest to retrieve the Grail got within one card of success, but then fell apart as no-one had the Grail card necessary to finish it, and a run of Despair and Desolation doomed us. Meanwhile the Doctor encouraged people to go on the nearly lost and obviously hopeless Excalibur quest; traitor, perhaps?

In the endgame Mr. Food made an obviously bad trade with King Arthur, and made some lame excuse. We proceeded to snipe at each other until my turn, at which point I successfully unmasked him as the traitor. Take that, Mr. Food! Unfortunately our losses were mounting, with six Black cards showing. At last the Picts (or perhaps Saxons) broke through and ended the game, with only three white swords showing.

The game proved a moderate success; I think most of the crew would be happy to give it another shot. The Moon, I don't think so, and I suspect Mr. Food probably isn't looking to play again either. As for our strategy, we committed the two great sins of Shadows; we spread out our resources trying hopelessly to complete too many of the quests simultaneously, and we were to quick to leave Camelot for a quest without enough of the required cards. We need to do some repeat playing with a group to get those foibles straightened out before I feel like we've really "played" the game.
 
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