Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Showing posts with label Citadels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Citadels. Show all posts

Friday, October 17, 2014

Top ten games that I play with my wife

Quite some time ago, Chris Norwood posted a list of his top ten games that he plays with his wife.  That list in turn was inspired by The Dice Tower podcast Episode 189, in which Tom Vasel and Eric Summerer shared their own top ten games that they play with their wives.  Those lists are both several years old, but the topic is timeless, so I thought I'd confer with my wife Kathy so that we could compile our own list.

Friday, September 5, 2014

My candidates for the 2014 Dice Tower Top 100

(c) Queen Games
Used by permission
The Dice Tower is soliciting People's Choice votes for its annual Top 100 Games.  At the risk of exposing my idiosyncratic taste in games, here are the twenty for which I voted:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

WBC 2014 Saturday and Sunday: WS&IM fleet action, Acquire semifinal, and demos

One quick go-back on my earlier posts recounting my World Boardgaming Championships experience this year:  The very first thing that Keith Ferguson and I did Thursday morning, on our way to the registration desk, was to bump into Josh Tempkin of Tall Tower Games.  He spent a good part of the convention demonstrating several of his games:
  • "WarTime," which I've written about before as a fascinating, innovative real-time wargame involving sand timers
  • "Throne Dice," which surprisingly I still haven't taken the time to play
  • "Commissioner," which I learned at UnPub 4 as "Lesser Evil"

Saturday, March 29, 2014

PrezCon 2014 Part 5: Finals

(c) Rio Grande Games
Used by permission
Saturday of PrezCon was a wonderfully full day of gaming.  It started at 9:00 AM with a game of Power Grid (designer Friedemann Friese; artists Antonio Dessi, Lars-Arne "Maura" Kalusky, and Harald Lieske; publisher Rio Grande), which I love but really don't play well.  We played on the original map of Germany, and I started in the north, where I found myself immediately in competition with Henry Ho.  I think the two of us beat each other down pretty aggressively, stealing cheap connections and forcing each other to leap-frog one another in order to expand, so we both ended up finishing poorly.  James Henderson, against whom I'd also played Acquire earlier in the week, narrowly won our game over Joe Rudmin in second.  I placed third powering 12 cities.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Holiday gaming

The holidays provide plenty of opportunity for gaming time with friends and family.  (Sadly, for all the gaming we did in the last week, I have no pictures.  What's wrong with me?)

(c) Lookout Games.  Used by permission
Last Friday our friend Theresa H. came over for a game.  We had several options, and when I described Le Havre (designer Uwe Rosenberg, artists Klemens Franz and Uwe Rosenberg, publisher Lookout Games [website in German]) as a "deeper version of Agricola," Theresa chose that to play.  We played the three-player shortened version, which has a few different buildings from the two-player that Kathy and I usually play.  This time Kathy really got her coal-coke-shipping engine going and made all kinds of money, but I was hot on the building strategy and constructed enough high-value buildings to eke out a win by five points.  Theresa made a good showing for her first game and had a good time.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Summer game photos

Now that summer is over, I thought I'd compile some photos of games we've played over the last three months.

The yellow plague outbreak gets away from us.
We love Pandemic, but we have such a hard time winning.  Late last June, the yellow plague took root in remote Santiago, and we neglected to deal with it until the outbreak counter reached the critical point.

Friday, August 9, 2013

WBC 2013 Saturday: Wooden Ships fleet action and semifinal

Saturday at the World Boardgaming Championships was the day I'd been preparing for - the Wooden Ships and Iron Men fleet action and, if I qualified, the semifinals with a goal of reaching the final and competing for the championship.

My fellow Dutch players, Admiral
Ron (l.) and Commodore Tim H.
Wooden Ships fleet action
Tim Hitchings always puts on a great fleet action at WBC.  This year, the scenario involved a meeting engagement in the Dogger Banks between a British fleet of six ships-of-the-line and six frigates escorting nine merchant vessels against a similarly outfitted Dutch fleet.  The goal of each fleet was to escort its merchants safely off the opposite side of the board.  I served as the rear commodore of the Dutch fleet, with the ship-of-the-line Holland and a frigate under my command, as well as three of the merchants.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Birthday dinner gaming

Yesterday was my beautiful wife Kathy's birthday, and we celebrated by having our good friends Glenn, Jeff, and Rebecca over for dinner and boardgames.  We customarily get together every few months or so to socialize, most recently in November when we played Tsuro and Settlers of Catan at Jeff's house.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Multi-player games for two players

Ryan Metzler recently posted a top-ten video of his favorite multi-player games for two players - that is, games made for two or more players but that are his favorites as two-player games.  His video is both quick and informative, and I bumped up a number of games on my wishlist as a result.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Shadows and Assassins

Last Tuesday night my friends and I played an "after school special," a gaming get-together after work at Game Parlor in Chantilly, Virginia.  There's one almost every week, but I usually only get to about one a month, so I always enjoy the opportunity to get with a larger group and play something different.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day weekend gaming

We marked the three-day Labor Day weekend celebrating American workers with several boardgaming sessions.  (In other words, we commemorated work by playing.)

Image courtesy of
Rio Grande Games
Friday evening, Kathy and I had our friend Theresa H. over for a game of Puerto Rico, one of our very favorites but one that we seldom get to play in its original three-to-five player form.  The three of us ended up very close in shipping and building points, but Kathy won with a strong showing of bonus points from the fortress and city hall.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

What to pack for a vacation


[While on vacation in North Carolina, I scheduled this re-post of my vacation boardgaming selections from last summer.  Originally appeared 29 July 2011]

We recently went on a vacation in the West Virginia mountains for some white-water rafting, horseback riding, paintball, and a zip line canopy tour.  (ACE Adventures, if you're interested.)  In the absence of internet and video games, we anticipated the need for some quality family downtime in the cabin.  So of course that means boardgames!

Last time we went, three years ago, we brought Uno and Guillotine, both of which were successful choices.  This time we wanted more options without having to bring the entire game closet.  So we put together a packing list of games that most of us like.  Everybody got to pick at least one game.  We wanted to have at least three options each for two, three, four, or five players.  At least three of the games had to be accessible to the youngest of us (ten years old).  We were mindful of space limitations, but we didn't necessarily cramp our style if there was something we really wanted to bring.  Here's the list we came up with:
This turned out to be a great list for several reasons, not the least of which is nearly all the games fit in a small tote bag.  (At one point I had 7 Wonders on the list, but the box is a bit bulky, and we already had plenty of options.)  The nice thing about this selection of games is that it has variety, nobody has to play if they don't want to, but we can always find options for any subset of the five of us.

So what did we actually play?  Well, Car-Go Othello got a lot of action during the six-hour drive to West Virginia.  The brilliance in the design of this game is that there are no separate parts.  The board (a six-by-six simplification of the eight-by-eight original Othello) has an integrated rotating piece for each space on the board.  Each space can be rotated to show a green blank, a white piece, or a black piece.  The game can be passed back and forth without risk of something falling on the floor of the car and getting lost under the seat (as happened with Travel Scrabble).

Whirlpool randomizer from
Uno H2O Splash
In the hot tub at our cabin, Uno H2O Splash got a lot of action.  Here is another clever production idea to solve the problem of a challenge game-playing venue.  The cards are clear plastic, printed in such a way that one side shows only the card face, the other only the card back.  The game plays like the familiar Uno with a water-themed twist:  Certain cards have a "splash" icon that, when played, require the next player to take a spin on the "whirlpool," a device rather like a small "Magic 8-ball" with an eight-sided die inside to yield a random outcome that the player must perform.

Sample page from Ace of Aces
Another brilliant game design that got some action was the old classic World War I dogfight game Ace of Aces.  This game requires neither board nor cards but is played with just a pair of books through which players flip from one cockpit view to another as they try to outmaneuver one another and get into firing position to inflict damage on each other's aircraft.  While I was in the Navy, I played this game many times with my chief engineer because it was so well suited to the tight confines of a submarine wardroom.  My sons each successfully chased me out of the skies, but in both cases I was able to escape with my badly damaged plane before being shot down.

We did play a few conventional games during our down-time in the cabin.  Incan Gold played out to an exciting finish, when our ten-year-old left the ruins with the artifact and the lead on the final mission, forcing the rest of us to play out the round until scared away by monsters and leaving him with the win.  Our Pirateer session saw a crazy round in which every player touched the treasure at least once before our ten-year-old stole the treasure on a perfect snake-eyes die roll and brought it home to his harbor just a few turns later.  My wife beat my 18-year-old son and me in Black Jack (using cards from Chicago Cribbage and money from Incan Gold) when she kept betting all her money to get out of the game but kept winning hand after hand.  My wife just destroyed me in a two-player session of Citadels, which is nevertheless still my favorite game right now.

And, oh yes, we were in the mountains of West Virginia, so we did plenty of white-water rafting, horseback riding, paintball, and zip-line canopy touring during the gaps between boardgames.

Six days until I go to World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

PrezCon 2012 - Part Two

Small World
Among my goals at PrezCon this year was to learn Small World, which my buddy Grant Greffey is running as the Game Master.  I participated in his demo for new players, which was well-attended by upwards of eight people crowded around the table.  Small World  is a relatively easy game to pick up.  Grant is especially fond of it for its replayability.  The random combinations of races and special abilities make for some dynamic game interactions.

Later that evening, we played the first heat in the tournament.  I placed fourth at my table and learned (as I have so often heard but failed to incorporate) the importance of timing when it comes to placing a race into decline and starting the ascendancy of a new one.  I did reasonably well with "forest orcs" in the first several turns of the game but held on too long to "wealthy wizards," whom in retrospect I should have placed into decline after just a turn or two in favor of some more effective race.  The winner was Nathan Twigg, a regular face at PrezCon and a fun opponent.

The bottom line of course is that I learned how to play SW and found it to be a fun, light game.

Can't Stop
After my exhaustive statistical analysis of Pass the Pigs and the stark realization that I am mathematically too cautious in my approach to push-your-luck games, I vowed that I would approach Can't Stop with a more aggressive style.  That approach did not serve me well at all late Thursday night, where I busted on countless attempts to close out a category.  I really have to spend some serious number-crunching on that game to figure out the right approach.

Midnight gaming
My friends and I have taken to meeting at midnight to play together because, you know, 14 hours of gaming can't possibly be enough for one day.  So Grant, Keith F., Brian G., Tom S. and I were joined by Michelle H. (who was at my Can't Stop table) for a six-player round of Alhambra.  I did abysmally poorly.  It was so bad that at one point after the second scoring round, Eugene Y. (a very experienced and knowledgeable player) looked at our table and was astounded at how low the scores were - mine in particular at about nine points.  He asked me if I'd ever played before, or if I even knew how to play.  I told him that I'd placed in the semifinals the previous year, and he was just dumb-founded that we could have been so far into the game and have scores so low.  It was about the strangest game of Alhambra I'd ever played.

After Alhambra, we still weren't satisfied, so Keith, Brian, Tom and I stayed up for a round of Citadels.  None of the three of them had played a four-player round of Citadels before; Keith and Brian had only ever played three-player games.  The dynamic is completely different with four players (and a better game, really) since each player gets only one role, and two roles are visible face up and known to be out of play.  I built some substantial high-scoring buildings, but had only got to five districts before Keith finished with eight and won the game.

[Next post:  Friday's experiences going down in flames, settling Catan, learning to acquire, and bringing more people aboard trains, planes, and automobiles]

Monday, January 16, 2012

Design inspiration

Working trademark for
"Gold on Mars"
Missing Unpub2 on Saturday inspired me to set aside a "designer day" of my own.  Since I had today off from work, I decided to sit down with "Gold on Mars" and nail down all the loose ends in my design.  My goal was to have a playable prototype by the end of the day.  I didn't quite get there, but I did get a good draft of rules for the commodities market written up and settled on the actual commodities and price structure that I think will work.  Everything will change with playtesting, of course, but I like my first cut to represent enough thought and planning that when it goes to table for the first time, it plays at least roughly well.

Space travel is still my major sticking point, and I wish I'd spent more time on it.  I think I finally settled on some rules for how much fuel is required to get to each planet, and how much fuel must be carried (or produced in situ) for the return trip.  I just don't want to get hung up on making players do too much math, or end up with such widely disparate transit costs among planets that a degenerate strategy develops to ignore distant mining sites in favor of those closer to Earth.

Another concern I have is the risk of a jackpot mining operation resulting in a runaway leader.  Mining is necessarily speculative, and has to have a major upside potential to justify the expense and risk of space travel, but if one player hits it big and others have mines that run dry, then the game simply ends up being an exercise in dice and card luck.  So once I do have a prototype, the first few playtests will have to expose the luck factors and point me in the direction of redesigning and reworking game elements to make it a contest of thoughtful risk management, more than just luck or puzzle-solving.

I do love a challenge.

***

Beer, wine, and Citadels
We did a fair amount of family gaming over the long weekend.  Saturday night saw us break in my dad's copy of Trains Planes and Automobiles.  We had a fun five-player session that saw the lead change hands several times before I finally won - almost entirely with railroad cities and without a single airport.  Sunday night we played a seven-player Sour Apples to Apples (publisher Mattel, strangely missing from mattel.com).   A Christmas gift from our oldest son, SAtA, like the original AtA, is a fun game for a big group.  (Lesson learned:  There's a big difference between the adjectives "immoral" and "immortal.")  And this evening, Kathy and I played another two-player session of Citadels in which she proved once more that she is living rent-free inside my head - and sometimes she even pulls the levers, tugs the strings, and pushes the buttons in there.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

After School Special: Three Games at Game Parlor

Most of my gaming experience on a week to week basis comes at home with my wife over cocktails - this time of year, out in the back yard next to the fire bowl.  But on occasion I will get together with friends after work at Game Parlor Chantilly, which is not far from where most of us work and therefore a convenient stopping place in the middle of the week for a game session.  We call it an After School Special, and sometimes even call it by its acronym...

This evening my buddies Grant, Keith, Brian, and I got together and started off with Tannhauser (designers William Grosselin and Didier Poli, artist Didier Poli, publisher Fantasy Flight Games).  I had first seen this game demonstrated at PrezCon a few years ago, and I have to say that I was mildly intrigued but also a little put off.  The demo was a little rushed, not well explained, and played through haphazardly, so I walked away thinking not much of the gameplay.  I have a very different impression of it now - a fun shoot 'em up skirmish game with a few neat special-ability twists.  In this evening's game, we paired off two players against two, each team controlling three heroes and two troopers.  Grant and Keith seized control of the center hallway of the house, but Brian and I managed to do some serious damage with a couple of hand grenades and some ridiculous dice luck.  We ended up winning in a game that probably shouldn't have been so lopsided.

(c) Z-man Games
Used by permission
Grant had to leave, so Keith, Brian, and I broke out my very favorite three-player game, The End of the Triumvirate (designers Johannes Ackva and Max Gabrian, artist Andrea Boekhoff, publisher Z-Man Games).  This was a very close game all the way through.  There were times when I really thought I was going to pull off a second election as consul and win the game, but instead Keith couldn't be stopped in achieving a competency victory despite best efforts from Brian and me to hold him back.  I am continually amazed at the knife-edge balance of this game.  It is not a symmetric game like many Euros, where play balance is a foregone conclusion because each player starts in an identical situation.  Yet there is no position in Triumvirate that has any kind of presumed advantage, or can be knocked out easily.  I've played three times now, and every time I'm left awestruck at how tight this game is.

(c) Fantasy Flight
Used by permission
With a little time left to kill, we decided to play Citadels (designer Bruno Faidetti, numerous artists*, publisher Fantasy Flight Games), which is right now my favorite game of all.  This was the game that kept us up until 2:00 in the morning at World Boardgaming Championships, after we'd each already had a full day of tournament gaming.  This time it was my turn to pull out the victory.  As always, it was a game full of second-guessing and back-stabbing.

Next post:  My latest design inspiration

* Artists for Citadels as listed on Boardgamegeek:
Cyrille DaujeanJulien DelvalJesper EjsingBruno FaiduttiDidier GraffetBjarne HansenDarrell HardyFlorence MagninJean-Louis MourierScott NicelyChristian T. PetersenBrian SchomburgRichard Spicer

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Final day at WBC

Yesterday was the last day of the Boardgame Players Association's World Boardgaming Championships 2011.  A record 1642 people attended WBC this year.  I met other designers, developers, and of course many gamers, including quite a few familiar faces from PrezCon.  And of course vendors, who were good enough to thin out my wallet in exchange for a few additions to my game shelf:

(c) Worthington Games
Used by permission
I've had my eye on Tech Bubble (designer Mike Nagel, artist Sean Cooke, publisher Worthington Games) for quite a while now.  We've really enjoyed push-your-luck games like Can't Stop and Incan Gold, so what I read about Tech Bubble makes me think it will fit right in.

Some time ago I did a survey in earnest for two-player games that my wife and I would enjoy, and Jaipur (designer Sebastien Pauchon, artist Alexandre Roche, publisher GameWorks) came up pretty high on the list.  DiceHateMe had a pretty funny review last April, including the following comment that caught my attention:

  • Jaipur - while sometimes frustrating because of the luck of the draw in the Market - is incredibly fun. Why? I honestly have no idea. There are some games that, if dissected, the parts would make most game scholars scratch their heads and utter a collective “huh?” However, put those parts together and a rare synergy occurs. This is the magic of Jaipur. 

I love games like that.  I happened to see it for 20% off at the convention and picked it up.

(c) Z-man Games
Used by permission
And then I got to the Z-man booth.  As my good friend Grant G. said, "I never met a Z-man game I didn't like."  I was really hoping to find Traders of Carthage, but apparently that's been out of print for a while.  But I did find The Speicherstadt (designer Stefan Feld, publisher Z-man Games) an auction trading house game that I've had my eye on for a while but which sold out at PrezCon last February before I could make up my mind to buy it.  Luckily I wasn't so indecisive this year.

I needed even less deliberation to pick up Farmers of the Moor (designer Uwe Rosenberg), also at the Z-man booth.  This extension to one of my favorite games, Agricola, adds horses and peat to the farm.  I expect Farmers will bring a little "aroma" to our Agricola sessions.

I had, unfortunately, blown my budget by the time I got to the Stronghold Games booth, where I encountered Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War (designer Robert Abbott, publisher Stronghold Games).  Oh, baby.  The DiceHateMe review of this cloak-and-dagger deduction game really brought out the evil laugh in me.  But how do you indulge your inner spy when you've got a bag full of games already?  Well, fortunately, Keith F. felt the same Cold War nostalgia I did.  (Oh, wait, he's not nearly as old as I am ... Keith, what grade were you in when the Berlin Wall fell?)  Nevertheless, Keith picked it up, somehow confident that he'd be able to get me to play it with him a few times.

Keith, Brian, and I sat down for two last games of the weekend - Trains Planes and Automobiles and Citadels, two more games that Keith bought on my recommendation.  (What a trusting soul.)  At the last minute, as the vendors were boxing up inventory, Brian ran back and grabbed a copy of Pandemic, because Keith and I knew that he wanted to buy it; he just needed a little encouragement.

So all in all, the three of us managed to stay entertained.  We drank beer, we competed in tournaments, we played games till 2:00 in the morning, we bought bags of games ... and yet none of us went home with a plaque.  Oh, well.  There's always PrezCon.

Friday, August 5, 2011

First day at World Boardgaming Championships

A quick summary of yesterday's events:

I started in Wooden Ships and Iron Men with a single frigate engagement against Tim Hitchings, the event coordinator.  I won largely due to die luck; for a good stretch of the game, I couldn't roll lower than '4,' and he couldn't roll higher than '3.'  It's hard to lose under those conditions.  

I followed with a match-up against Rob from Alexandria, VA, my two Spanish 80- and 74-gun ships-of-the-line (SOLs) against his similarly rated vessels.  I won that engagement as well, partly due to basic naval gunnery tactics (concentrate both broadsides on a single target, take down one mast, then switch fire to hull and blast away) and partly due again to die luck (although not as egregious as in the frigate battle).  I was by no means unscathed; through effective use of chain shot, Rob completely demasted my 80-gun SOL.  At one point he tried to perform an end run by pulling his rear SOL out of line and upwind, away from my fire, then rigging full sails, and attempting to sprint around the far side of his lead SOL to turn down wind and attempt to set up a rake on my rear SOL.  I was pretty tight with my line and maneuver, though, and managed to re-form my line along the wind in such a way that instead of firing on my rear, he faced a combined broadside as he made his attempted raking maneuver. Meanwhile, I was able to keep up the barrage on his lead SOL until she struck her colors.  At that point Rob felt that he was unlikely to pull out a win (particularly under tournament time constraints), and he conceded the battle.

I had an opportunity to introduce Trains Planes and Automobiles to Laurie W. and Jenna S., the adults running the Juniors Room.  (There were few children present at the time, and those were all engaged in other games already.)  The adults seemed interested in learning a new family game, and it went over very well.  I'm optimistic they will look for it in the Vendors Room tomorrow, when Worthington Games will have it available for sale.

I competed in the 7 Wonders tournament at a very fun table of seven people, including Stefan from Montreal.  I came in a very close second place (112 points over two games).  There were 25 tables and 42 seats in the quarterfinal, so my strong second-place finish qualified me for the quarterfinal.  Unfortunately, there I had my worst showing ever, with 36 points and a solid lock on seventh place.  So that was it for 7W for me this convention.  

Dr. Lewis Pulsipher delivered a seminar that amounted to a summary of his lecture notes on game design, with a great deal of Q&A and interaction among the audience members, who included Joe Angiolillo, designer of Objective Moscow and Operation Typhoon (although he denied deserving credit for that latter title), among others.  It was a rich and fascinating session that ran so long that I skipped the Agricola heat scheduled for later in the evening.

After my friends Keith F. and Brian G. finished in Agricola (Keith won his table), we went over to the open gaming area, where I introduced them to Citadels.  Keith won our game, a victory I think I could have snatched from him if I'd properly played the assassin against the architect (rather than the warlord), which would have prevented him from building his eighth district and getting sufficient bonus points to outscore me.  Curses!

Today's plan includes more WS&IM, more opportunities to introduce kids to TPA, Alhambra (or maybe Agricola - there's a conflict), demos of Tikal and Washington's War, a seminar on gaming and ethics, and opportunities to play Battleline, Ingenious, and Liar's Dice.  

Friday, July 29, 2011

What to pack for a vacation

We recently went on a vacation in the West Virginia mountains for some white-water rafting, horseback riding, paintball, and a zip line canopy tour.  (ACE Adventures, if you're interested.)  In the absence of internet and video games, we anticipated the need for some quality family downtime in the cabin.  So of course that means boardgames!


Last time we went, three years ago, we brought Uno and Guillotine, both of which were successful choices.  This time we wanted more options without having to bring the entire game closet.  So we put together a packing list of games that most of us like.  Everybody got to pick at least one game.  We wanted to have at least three options each for two, three, four, or five players.  At least three of the games had to be accessible to the youngest of us (ten years old).  We were mindful of space limitations, but we didn't necessarily cramp our style if there was something we really wanted to bring.  Here's the list we came up with:
This turned out to be a great list for several reasons, not the least of which is nearly all the games fit in a small tote bag.  (At one point I had 7 Wonders on the list, but the box is a bit bulky, and we already had plenty of options.)  The nice thing about this selection of games is that it has variety, nobody has to play if they don't want to, but we can always find options for any subset of the five of us.

So what did we actually play?  Well, Car-Go Othello got a lot of action during the six-hour drive to West Virginia.  The brilliance in the design of this game is that there are no separate parts.  The board (a six-by-six simplification of the eight-by-eight original Othello) has an integrated rotating piece for each space on the board.  Each space can be rotated to show a green blank, a white piece, or a black piece.  The game can be passed back and forth without risk of something falling on the floor of the car and getting lost under the seat (as happened with Travel Scrabble).

Whirlpool randomizer from
Uno H2O Splash
In the hot tub at our cabin, Uno H2O Splash got a lot of action.  Here is another clever production idea to solve the problem of a challenge game-playing venue.  The cards are clear plastic, printed in such a way that one side shows only the card face, the other only the card back.  The game plays like the familiar Uno with a water-themed twist:  Certain cards have a "splash" icon that, when played, require the next player to take a spin on the "whirlpool," a device rather like a small "Magic 8-ball" with an eight-sided die inside to yield a random outcome that the player must perform.

Sample page from Ace of Aces
Another brilliant game design that got some action was the old classic World War I dogfight game Ace of Aces.  This game requires neither board nor cards but is played with just a pair of books through which players flip from one cockpit view to another as they try to outmaneuver one another and get into firing position to inflict damage on each other's aircraft.  While I was in the Navy, I played this game many times with my chief engineer because it was so well suited to the tight confines of a submarine wardroom.  My sons each successfully chased me out of the skies, but in both cases I was able to escape with my badly damaged plane before being shot down.

We did play a few conventional games during our down-time in the cabin.  Incan Gold played out to an exciting finish, when our ten-year-old left the ruins with the artifact and the lead on the final mission, forcing the rest of us to play out the round until scared away by monsters and leaving him with the win.  Our Pirateer session saw a crazy round in which every player touched the treasure at least once before our ten-year-old stole the treasure on a perfect snake-eyes die roll and brought it home to his harbor just a few turns later.  My wife beat my 18-year-old son and me in Black Jack (using cards from Chicago Cribbage and money from Incan Gold) when she kept betting all her money to get out of the game but kept winning hand after hand.  My wife just destroyed me in a two-player session of Citadels, which is nevertheless still my favorite game right now.

And, oh yes, we were in the mountains of West Virginia, so we did plenty of white-water rafting, horseback riding, paintball, and zip-line canopy touring during the gaps between boardgames.

Six days until I go to World Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sacked in Citadels

A couple of weeks ago, our good friends Sheila and Keith invited us and our friend Jeff over for dinner and games.  The five of us played Citadels (designer Bruno Faidutti, publisher Fantasy Flight Games), which turned out to be terrific fun.  As it happened, Sheila had an extra copy, so we went home with Citadels as a kind of door prize.  Later we learned that she and Keith had been playing two-player and really enjoying it, so we tried it ourselves this evening.

Citadels has become my favorite game of all - even over 7 Wonders.  The brilliance of the game is in the role selection and sequential role resolution.  When the five of us played, we all seemed to value the Architect most of all for the two free cards he'd offer - until someone would always select the Assassin and kill the Architect.  That seemed to be de riguer in our session that night.  So then people would shy away from the Architect unless they had some reason to believe that they wouldn't be assassinated.  There was a lot of second-guessing, and at one point I had a particularly lucky turn when I selected the thief with the expectation that Sheila (who had six gold pieces) would select the Magician for his card-exchange ability (because she kept complaining about her cards).  My bet paid off, and Sheila was set back more than a turn in building construction when I took her stack of money away.  (If looks could kill .... :-) )

So, fast forward to this evening:  Kathy and I decided to try the two-player variant ourselves, in which each player ends up with two roles.  The brilliance of the two-player game is that you can usually narrow down your opponent's likely roles to two out of four possibilities.  There is often a kind of, "you expect me to take the merchant, so I should take the bishop, except that you know I know you expect me to take the merchant, so you think I'll take the bishop, so I should take the merchant..."


Kathy's winning Citadel
at the base of her wineglass
 In our case, I think I was too willing to build small buildings with the intent to jump to an early lead and get control of triggering the end of the game.  My building efforts stalled out, however, and Kathy ended up building her seventh and eighth buildings in one turn.  That undermined my selection of the Warlord, who had planned to burn down her Church (but could not do so once she had eight buildings).  She ended up beating me both in building points and in building the eighth building first.  Final score - Kathy 36, Paul 31.

I really, really like this game.  I am surprised it has not caught on at PrezCon nor at the World Boardgaming Championships.  Maybe I should do something about that.