Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Showing posts with label Triumvirate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Triumvirate. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My top ten card games

Inspired by Dice Tower Episode 206, Chris Norwood (GamerChris) recently posted his favorite card games.  Since inspiration begets inspiration, I thought I'd explore the topic myself.

Before I get into my top ten list, I'll mention that the definition of a "card game" might be ambiguous. I think Alhambra qualifies, for example, because the card play (among four suits or "currencies" of a range of values) drives the purchase of the tiles that are placed for scoring. But I wouldn't include games that just "have cards in them," like Agricola or Clue, because card play isn't the primary aspect of the game (even if they are essential to the mechanics). I'm not sure how to write the definition of a "card game," but I'd be curious to know people's thoughts on which games are close to the frontier between card games and "other games" and how you decide on which side of the boundary a game falls.

My honorable mentions would include:

Chrononauts: A goofy title from Loony Labs that my wife really seems to like. I prefer Martian Fluxx, but this one is also a likeable game.

Incan Gold: I'm always fascinated by the way teenagers play push-your-luck games, so this is a fun one to play with my kids. I never know what they're going to do.

Guillotine: The artwork in this Wizards of the Coast title still makes me chuckle.

Triumvirate: A recent discovery that I am only beginning to appreciate

Mille Bornes is a nostalgic favorite that has fond memories going way back to when I was growing up.  It was a family favorite then and still sees the light of day from time to time even now.

So, my top ten card games:

10. Alhambra: I used to dislike this game because I thought it had a "run-away" aspect to it, in which an early leader was hard to catch. That is, until I thought I'd run away with a game in the PrezCon semifinals and then lost somehow in the final scoring. Perhaps I completely misplayed near the end, but I prefer to think that my worthy opponent had a more subtle appreciation for the game and how to score big without leading in many categories.

9. Munchkin: My kids have taken a sudden recent liking to this game, and I like anything I can get my kids to play. Another good one for laughs.

8. Empyrean, Inc. This is a regular go-to game for my wife and me, a surprise hit we received as a gift. We love this game so much that we started to wear the cards out, so I bought a backup copy.

7. Martian Fluxx: A genius little game from Loony Labs. What a crack-up.

6. Down in Flames III: Zero!: A very clever card-play mechanism for air combat

Image courtesy of
Rio Grande Games
5. Race for the Galaxy:  This is a game I want to like more than I do. My wife and I found all the symbols confusing and frustrating, and we haven't played it since. Having said that, I'd still like to try it with a fresh (patient) group and find out why people rave about it.  (San Juan is worth mentioning here as something we explored as an alternative to RftG, but I think we found it a little simplistic and perhaps disappointing. We kept thinking, "Why don't we just play Puerto Rico instead?") 

4. Battle Line: Great mind-bending game with my wife, except that she always wins.  What is up with that?

3. Condottiere: I haven't had a chance to play this nearly as much as I'd like. I fell in love with it in just one session. I wish I could play it a lot more to fully appreciate it.

2. Pacific Typhoon: Very fond of this game with a bigger group of people. I love the historical photographs. Very clever game-play structure that motivates some pretty lively negotiation.

1. 7 Wonders: Currently my favorite game of all. I will play this at the drop of a hat.  Will Wonders never cease?

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Poor Man's Triumvirate

I read Chris Norwood's recent post on Triumvirate, and it intrigued me enough to learn about the game.  I'm always on the look-out for new two-player games to try out with my wife.  On boardgamegeek.com, I found Ender Wiggin's review, which was sufficiently descriptive that I was able to reproduce the game play with a modified deck of regular playing cards (in true cheapskate fashion).

The premise of Triumivirate is that the players are playing cards to represent political machinations to place Caesar, Pompey, or Crassus on the throne as Emperor of Rome.  When one of the three nobles becomes Emperor, the game ends, and the player who has secretly pledged greater support to that noble house wins the game.

To assemble a knock-off for Triumivirate, I removed all the clubs, all the tens, and the two jokers from a normal deck of playing cards.  The three remaining suits - spades, hearts, diamonds - represent the three Roman noble houses of Caesar, Pompey, and Crassus.  The face cards in each suit are used to track the progress of each faction, so that when spades (or hearts or diamonds) wins a hand, the Jack of spades (or hearts or diamonds) is turned face up.  When spades wins a second hand, the Queen of spades is turned face up, and when spades wins a third hand, the King of spades is turned face up to indicate that the "leader of the house of spades" has won ascendancy as Emperor of Rome.

The Ace through nine of spades, hearts, and diamonds are used to win tricks on behalf of the three suits.  When three tricks are won in a single suit, that hand is over, that suit wins the hand, and that suit's next face card is turned face up to represent progress in that suit toward becoming Emperor.  The four, six, and eight of each suit are also eligible to use as "pledges" for the players each to secretly support one of the three factions.  At the end of the game, players reveal the cards they have pledged in each suit, and the player with the greater total in the "winning suit" wins the game.

The details of how to play each hand and how to win tricks are well described in Ender Wiggins review on boardgamegeek, so I won't belabor the mechanics here.

Kathy and I tried two games on Tuesday evening.  The first game was a learning game as we got familiar with the mechanics.  The second game gave us a little more appreciation for the tactics of vying for ascendancy and throwing support behind the faction you think will win while undermining your opponent's efforts to advance the faction to which you think he or she has pledged the most support.  In the end, we both agreed that it is an interesting game, but we didn't get as excited about it as we have about other games.  We'll probably try it again some time, but it won't be on our short list, at least not right away.