Friday, March 03, 2006

Central Tuesday Session, 2/28/06

It's been a while since I've made a Tuesday session. Valentine's Day and travel play hell with my schedule. And so it was with great anticipation that I welcomed Dave, KC, Tim, and Mike (with special appearance by Peter and his son) to my house for an evening of gaming.

I should mention that I came out of the recent Rainy Day Games auction with quite a bit of capital, of which I promptly spent about 60% on new games. Of course, when one pays retail, one's money tends not to go as far, but seeing as I managed to both clean out the closet and then subsequently put a few things back in, one can't really complain. Of these new games, two were played on Tuesday.

First up was Niagara, a cute little light game where you try to collect jewels from various spots on a river without letting your boat go over the falls. The board is sheer genius, consisting of a long section that sits on the game box lid and bottom, but that features twin falls that hang over one end. The river itself sits between raised cardboard sections, so that you push round clear plastic circles along it's length to simulate the flow of water. The rate of flow will change based on how much movement each player's canoes make every turn, so predicting how many disks will go over the falls is important to strategy. Each player has seven tiles they can play, with movement from 1 to 6 spaces, plus a "weather" tile that allows you to impede or speed up the current. Each tile is played once, then all are recycled, so planning is important.

Also important, and to my mind what makes the game wacky fun, is that canoes moving upriver can steal gems from boats in the space they land on. This is critical to preventing people from getting a win at times, and in fact that happened at least once in our game. Good thing, as everyone was so worried about a couple of other players that I snuck right in for the win with KC coming in right behind to share the victory.

I liked this game a lot, although I know at least two others in the group were not impressed. That's interesting, as there is almost no luck in this game other than which way the river will flow around the little island right before the falls that makes two separate rivers (and thus slows down the current right at the crucial point), and even that can generally be assumed to result in alternating disks going in alternating directions. Mostly, though, I got the game to play with family members, as it is pretty light and a bit much in terms of components for our group. I really can't think of any game that is quite like it.

Next up was Die Sieben Siegal, or Seventh Sign, also sold as Zing! under the Amway, erm, Simply Fun label. Perhaps my favorite trick taking game, the idea is to successfully predict what tricks you will take, with it being better to over predict than under predict. I did quite well up to the third hand, when I waited too long to get my high trump out and ended up collecting three green tricks that I didn't really want, adding 9 points to my score. In the final round, Dave took "Rupert" (hoping to force others into taking tricks they didn't want), but Mike foiled his evil plan and won the game with six points in five hands, a fairly impressive achievement with five players.

Mike had to leave at that point, so we pulled out the card game version of E&T, subtitled "Conquest of Kings". I was surprised at how much of the board game was left in the card version, with the only real changes being boats instead of temples and the use of cards to take points (if you are going to play a blue card to get points in a kingdom, you have to play an additional one from your hand to do so). This results in increased luck of the draw from the card deck, which did not go over well. Me, I didn't hate it as much as others, largely because I always suck at E&T anyway and have never come in any higher than third (and usually dead last). If the game has anything to recommend it, it can be taken on a trip because of the relatively small space requirements (removing the deck and markers from the box means it will take up essentially no space in a suitcase). Otherwise, it didn't really come across as any sort of improvement at all, demonstrating that, like "The Pink Panther," some things really shouldn't be messed with.

Even though it was only 2145, a bit early for our group, that was it for the evening. Thanks to all for coming!

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