Friday, July 07, 2006

Back In Black - CenTu 7/6/06

My last posting was about a month ago. Since that time, I've been on two trips, including a trip to Iowa. Somehow, I've survived.

The other problem I've had is that I'm pretty unhappy with Support for the Mac is poor at best (the editor, for example, contains no easy buttons for simple things like bold or italicized text when I use the Mac's Safari browser. I also have trouble with getting access to the site.

Hard to complain about a free service, I guess, but it's been enough of a pain that I'm going to be switching over to a .mac account and authoring in iWeb, but I don't know when that will happen. Sometime soon, I hope.

Not that I haven't been gaming over the past month. I got to play several games at my family's Sunriver retreat, but the only really interesting games were a very close game of Ticket to Ride: Europe that ended in a tie, a prototype game of a friend's prototype, and a couple of hilarious games of Time's Up, perhaps the best party game ever. Between trips was a very slow game of Clippers, played with four new (and relatively young) players at the South Tuesday session a week ago.

But it took until last night at our slightly delayed Central Tuesday session for me to really enjoy a set of games. Nine folks showed up, a surprise for a night that we slipped out two days to accomodate the July 4 holiday. New members Alex and Liz (my nephew and his fiance), Mike, and George played Caylus in the Temple of Conspicuous Consumption, while Tim, Carrie, Chuck, and Alex's visiting friend Dana played a series of games: Modern Zeiten, Titan: the Arena, and Zircus Flohcati.

Chuck bought Modern Zeiten for me a few years ago, and I've had such trouble "getting" this game that it hasn't come out much. I really wanted to give it a try, and I knew Chuck would be here, so out it came. Note: Chuck claims this purchase on my behalf was because he likes zeppelins, and not just the Led type.

MZ is pretty straightforward rules-wise, not so simple to play. The game revolves around players moving along a track containing 30 spaces. Each space corresponds to a 5x6 grid of commodities in one dimension, and cities in the other. A turn consists of turning over a random number of commodity cards put up for bid using a set pool of money. The winner gets the cards, and gives the bid amount to the other players, similar to Traumfabrik. The winner then can choose to either draw a couple more cards, or play down some commodity cards on the table so that they have more of one type showing than anyone else. They then move their marker to any space along the track (forward direction only) that hasn't been claimed and that matches one of their majorities. They put a deed on that space, and also on the matching space on the grid.

Making things interesting is the stock crash track. Once enough commodity cards are laid down, whichever commodity has the most shares showing are discarded from each player's display. Being the person who forces the crash has a big advantage in wiping out large numbers of cards in the right circumstances, and knowing when you can do this (and when you should) can be a big factor in trying to win the earlier auction, as that person goes first of the players around the table in playing shares.

At the end of the game, there are a few ways to get points: getting to the end space is worth 1, as is having the majority of shares showing in each commodity. Having the majority of the markers on the grid in a given row or column is worth 3 points (for columns), and 1-5 points (for rows). You also get three points for having the most money. As such, players typically shoot for specific cities and specific commodities, but the cards don't always cooperate. In our game, the end result was exceptionally close, with Dana scoring 11 points, and Tim, Chuck, and myself scoring 10.

This was the first time I'd really enjoyed playing this game, and now that I've "gotten" it, it will come out more often. Note that with five players, every play is critical, as there are only six or seven turns before the game ends.

Caylus was still running in the other room (and would do so all night), so we pulled out Titan: the Arena. My usual game of T:tA results in ending up with cards at the end of the game that I really can't use, or don't want to. Not this game: I got four Titan strength cards early, and kept getting Warlock cards (my secret bet and second critter), not to mention four spectators. I also had the opportunity to kill two critters, so I was really hoping I'd manage to win this one.

Sadly, I made one really dumb play at the end of the game. With the Titan and Warlock still in the last round, and faced with losing the Warlock, I foolishly ensured the survival of the Warlock instead of playing the 0 Spectator on the Ranger. Tim was able to kill off the Titan, knocking my points from 15 to 10. And 10 was not quite enough: everyone had made their secret bets on either the Troll (a survivor) and the Warlock! The final score was 11-11-10-10-8, with Tim beating out Carrie by having played a card more recently than her.

Finally, we played a quick game of Zircus Flohcati, a fantastic and fast game of set collecting with elements of Chicken. We had an awful lot of sixes and sevens getting knocked out in draws, which seemed to be Chuck's strategy. I, on the other hand, never seemed to get the good cards, and despite a trio I ended up with only 38 points, not anywhere close enough to beat Tim's 51. Everyone else was pretty close to Tim's total. At least I was within a point of winning on a couple of games. Even so, ZF is perhaps the best underplayed quickie game in my collection, and I'll have to bring it out more.

Three games, three classics, three great contests. I hear Mike snuck in for a late win in Caylus, a game I've got to play again sometime. Thanks to all for attending! Next week we return to our usual Tuesday session, although I'll be going to a friend's birthday game-day on Saturday, and so will have another report in the next few days.

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