Wednesday, January 11, 2006

South Tuesday Session, 1/10/06

Mike hosted a whopping nine gamers, including a few we don't see so often and New Guy Carey. Turnout has been pretty good lately, but I guess that in Oregon, there isn't that much to do when it rains, and it has been raining lately.

While Chris, Eric, Mike, Tim, and Carey played Bus (a game I'd love to like, but the board gives me fits), Chuck, Rita, KC and I played Tal der Koenig, followed by David and Goliath, and ending with (of all things) Havoc.

Tal der Koenig is a game of building pyramids. The game has been around for a while, and is the only game I've seen other than Ubi (a geography game that was the followup to the original Trivial Pursuit) that comes in a triangular box. KC says that the game is very highly sought on eBay, with prices well over $100. The idea is to move overseers and workers around a board to build pyramids from blocks you blind-bid for earlier in the turn. If you have a majority of overseers at another person's site, you can use your workers to steal blocks from that site, and if you also have more workers, you can even steal the site itself. The bigger and more aesthecally pleasing your pyramids are, the more points you get.

We all tried to do a certain amount of screwage in the game, although not so much between KC and Rita. While I got off to a fast start with a passable small pyramid, KC's first two pyramids were each worth twice as much as mine. With Chuck and I spending cycles going back and forth, Rita and KC were doing so well (and KC's big pyramid was so far away from me that I couldn't get there to do any stealing, and even then I didn't need the blocks) that it became quite clear quickly that the game would end with an easy win for KC with nothing any of the rest of us could do. I find games like that to be a bit on the tedious side, and while I did like the basic ideas inherent in the game, this wouldn't be a game I'd pay a premium for.

Next up was David and Goliath, the trick taking game where the lowest card played (ties go to the later card played) collects the largest card played, and the largest card played takes the remaining tricks. You display the cards you take in front of you, and at the end of the hand you get the face value of cards you've collected if you only got one or two of that suit, otherwise they are worth a single point each. Obviously, the trick (no pun intended) is to get one or two high cards in each suit, although it's not necessarily a bad idea to collect as many cards as you can in a suit if that works better for you.

In the first hand, Rita got the most points with only two cards in three or four different suits, with me close behind. I had figured out what I needed to do by the second hand, and cleaned up with 47 points, only two more than I'd gotten with Rita doing so well. Part of the strategy is to try to channel cards to players who will be the most damaged by them - in some cases you can actually force someone to lose as many as 60 points with one trick! My own strategy is to try to get cards from a short suit out of my hand as quickly as possible so that I don't have to follow suit when they are led. The game can get a bit slow if players try to count cards (easy when they are displayed, and a good reason why my mother the Bridge player was a monster at this game the first time I taught it to her). If you want to play competitively, however, it may become critical at the end of the hand, but I did try not to get into that mode of thinking until the last few tricks. This one's a winner, recently republished, and I think it could become a popular closer, especially as the game scales well from two to six players.

Finally, we played Havoc while the other table pulled out Take 6. I remembered now what drives me crazy about this game (as well as Taj Mahal) - the fact that you can burn a bunch of cards for absolutely nothing. Funny, that happens in Tag der Koenig too! I managed to snag exactly two points in the first five battles, and had spent a lot of cards doing it. I did save up five nines throughout the game, and used them to get the penultimate battle points, but that was only good enough for me to squeak by KC for third. I do like this game, but I obviously haven't quite figured out how to play well - you have to go strong if you want points and not finesse your way to victory (my strategy that failed miserably). This was my first playing with a production set and I do want to keep playing to get a better sense of what it takes to win the game.

Thanks for hosting, Mike. I'll have to miss the next Tuesday session (HOA meeting, yay), but I will have a couple of other posts on sessions in the next week or so.

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