Shortly after Days of Wonder re-introduced Gang of Four, the company offered a site for online play. Eventually ‘bots’ were added to fill out the required four players (if needed) and a ranking system was introduced. The ranking system awards online players points according to a specific formula. This system is based on the ELO application developed for the International Chess Federation. (For more information on the workings of this particular system and Gang of Four see: http://www.gangoffour.com/index.php?t=content⊂;=ranking&rid=1999&S=21ca17aabb4d885086e98e65566bc64f)
One of the benefits of the online game is that players from around the globe participate. Though the game is promoted as being the #1 game in Hong Kong and extremely popular in Asia, the high ranking positions have been (and are) dominated by French players. Occasionally non-French players enter the top ten ranks and I had the opportunity to interview one of these players. Rich Kroll (2kfl online) was the only North American player ranked in the top ten as of the first of the year (2006). He agreed to answer a few questions.
Q: How long have you been playing GoF?
RK: Two… maybe two and a half years but only a little over one year online.
Q: How much time do you spend playing?
RK: About 10 hours per week. More in the winter; less in the summer.
Q: Do you play competitively or just to socialize?
RK: Competition is alright but I play because I like the game… the way the cards play out… the strategies.
Q: Do you enter tournaments?
RK: I play in sports tournaments all of the time. If I could find a Gang of Four tournament I would enter. Tournaments are great fun.
Q: Do you ever play any of the variants? (3 handed, partners, etc.)
RK: The game is only good with four. Some games are only right when played with a certain number; Gang of Four is a four player game.
Q: What is your most memorable game (or hand)?
RK: Once I had three gangs in one hand! The hands you remember are ‘the bombs’. These are hands where you are dealt just the right cards and everyone else gets nicked for 80 points.
Q: Which do you prefer online or face-to-face?
RK: Online - it’s quicker so I can play more games and there are more and different people. Without online, I’d never be able to play the French players.
Q: Do you have problems with the ‘language barrier’?
RK: Not with playing the game. Sometimes when the other three players are French I can feel a bit paranoid but most are able to speak English and will once they know I can’t speak French. They are great players; they really know the game.
Q: Why do you think the game is more popular in France and Asia than in the U.S.?
RK: Most Americans are now, now, now. They think a card game should be over in two hands; fifteen minutes. Gang of Four is a fairly deep for a card game; a close game can run more than an hour.
Q: Do you think the online rankings help or hurt the game?
RK: Both. You get better game play when something is at stake: money, rank, etc. But it does hurt too. I’ll play with anyone. There are some players that once they reach a high rank… I guess they just won’t join a game with a low ranked player because they feel they have too much to lose. That’s not just Gang of Four; that’s common whenever there are rankings. I’m there to play; I’ll play anyone.
Q: How about the ‘bots’?
RK: I hate the (xxxx) bots. You learn the way they play.
Q: (In Gang of Four the loser and winner of a hand exchange certain cards in the next hand. The winner receives the loser’s best card and gives the loser any card he chooses. This has been criticized and characterized as ‘the rich get richer’.) So how do you feel about the exchange, the rich get richer mechanic?
RK: Nothing wrong with that; I think it’s good. You may have to give up a Phoenix or Dragon but it improves your chances of getting a gang. If you played the Dragon and then five cards versus a gang and five cards there is a three card swing and I’d take that any day; with the multipliers that could turn the game around.
Q: Is it skill or luck?
RK: You could be the #1 player and get a bad hand; it’s still a card game. If you get a bad hand you shoot to get down to seven or ten cards. You have to play what you are dealt. The more you play, the more you know what to do with a bad hand. There is a learning curve. Twenty games to stabilize a rating is about right. It’s on the job training. Anything can happen in a card game. I could lose every game for the next two weeks and be ranked below the bots. That’s what makes this a great game; every game is new - a new challenge.
Q: What would you change?
RK: I like card games and this is a good one. I just wish they had local tournaments or even online tournaments to enter.
Q: So what does “2kfl” stand for?
RK: Come and play; just ask and I will tell you.
I picked this up for my brother, they played 3 player variant and it went over "Lukewarm", I suspect because by many accounts, its a 4 player only game.
We've yet to try it due to so many other games, and GOF being harder to learn and get the strategies, but it was so cheap (free), that I hope to get it out soon so I can at least review it.
New South Wales
Buster Keaton from 'Go West'
I just wrote a session report today about our 3 player game last night. We liked it. I guess with 4 player there are more people plotting to steal the lead from you, but I can live without that paranoia.
La Plaine St-Denis
I guess with 4 player there are more people plotting to steal the lead from you, but I can live without that paranoia.
The problem with a three-player game is that you have to live with the paranoia of which cards does the fourth "out" hand contain. Is the Dragon in-game or is your Yellow Phoenix the highest card?