Nothing like a Day of the Devil for gaming.
FYI, many scholars consider 666 to be a misprint of 616, much like the mistransmission that resulted in Moses crossing the Red Sea (it was the Reed Sea - and for those who argue that the Bible wasn't written in English, the transcription error was essentially the same in Latin). Many believe it is a numerological representation of a name, understandable as Hebrew letters are also their number system.
Anyway, I'm typing this, so apparently the Second Coming is still pencilled in sometime in 2009.
Matt wasn't feeling well, so I took over the hosting duties. This worked well since I'll be out of town in two weeks when I'd normally be hosting. Chuck, Wes, and Carey joined me in playing a couple of great games.
First up was San Juan with Chuck and Carey, as Wes was coming in a bit late. We normally play this game very quickly, but it was only the second playing for Carey. I'm learning that this game is best when it's played at a blistering pace - but then isn't everything? Chuck creamed us, scoring almost as many points as Carey and I combined. I went with a Chapel early, but I had trouble generating enough cards in my hand to get me where I needed to be, and was actively avoiding the Grange Hall, erm, Guild Hall strategy, which is usually my go-to tactic, but I wanted to try something different. Sadly, the strategy worked very well for Chuck.
Wes showed up, and I took the opportunity to pull out AH's year-old-title Nexus Ops. Think Risk 2210 with a variable hex board, fluorescent rubbery figures, and wacky secret missions and action cards. Plus, thankfully, a short playing time (60-90 minutes, our game was about 75 including teaching) and a very streamlined sequence of play. One of the things I like about the game is that you can be beat down by the other players and still win on VP. Most other games of this type require you to "take the board" or at least be well on your way, but this game rewards tactical play as well as strategic.
Chuck, of course, hated it.
Carey and I came out strong, and while I had a lot of territory and income, I wasn't getting secret missions that were giving me decent points until later in the game. In fact, at one point I was pretty sure I could win by taking my Giant Flying Bug piece to the monolith in the middle and winning a battle, but sadly Wes had taken his Rock Striders off of the space right before my turn, depriving me of something like 7 VP in my final turn. Carey had done quite well with his VP, and by leaving a Leaping Lava Lizard alone in a space he was able to take it and win the game.
I have to admit, while I own lots of games like this, I really don't like playing them. I sold my copies of A&A:Original/Pacific/Europe (I kept D-Day, it's quite a good 2-player game), along with a bunch of the early Eagle Games titles, but this one is a winner in my book. Short play time is a big plus, as is the story arc (you start small, expand and explore, and then fight). The "monolith" is a particularly crappy component, but otherwise the pieces are nicely done. The backstory is a bit wacky (armies fighting for mining rights on some planet with very large bugs), but what really matters is the game, and I for one had a great time.
At this point Chuck left in disgust :-) and so Carey and Wes and I played a quick game of Zircus Flohcati, a great little card game about setting up a flea circus. You want to collect the highest card you can in each of the ten suits, each suit a different act (The Great Flea-dini, for example), but also want to get "triples" of the lower scoring cards in order to get 10 point bonuses. During your turn, you can turn over cards until you decide to stop and pick one of the face up cards, or you turn over a card whose suit is already exposed and get nothing. The cards are still there from the previous person's turn, so you may or may not be setting them up when you turn over cards. Playing time is about 20 minutes, and aside from six "action" cards that trigger specific events, the game is language-independent. Since you don't have to worry about the action cards until they get turned over and it's all public anyway, this isn't much of a problem.
I won by getting all of the suits in hand, with 39 points in six of the suits (the highest card in each suit is a 7, so three sevens and three sixes isn't too bad), plus a triple and the ten point bonus for going out first.
We are overloaded with great filler games - Money, Katzenjammer Blues, Geschenkt (No Thanks), even San Juan (we play very fast). This one needs to come out more often, it really is a fast, fun game that's extremely easy to teach and it has a great "chicken" element that I love.
Thanks to everyone who attended!