Tim, Dave, Jay, George, and myself joined Mike at his place for an evening of gaming.
On this night, our "summoner" game was Drive, one of the bazillion Simply Fun titles that Mike has. This is a simple set collecting game that has some nice screwage elements that raise it above similar titles. I don't know that it makes a great multi-player game, but I hear it's great with two. Think Lost Cities with easy scoring, and I think you've got it. After one round, I was tied for most points with someone else, perhaps George.
By this time, we had six people ready to game, so out came Elfenland, one of the better six-player games out there. We played with the RGG rules, which means you draw back up to eight cards and you have to get back to your home city (or as close to it) for a tiebreaker, which always seems to be required.
I did not have a single turn when someone wasn't harshing my buzz in a serious way, preventing me from collecting more than five markers a turn. Jay got off to an awesome start, and by the end of the third turn I think that he and Mike were both pretty close to a win with 17 markers each. Dave was off in a corner by himself, with six markers to get, and I found myself deciding to skip the one "in and out" space in the Western mountains in favor of running through the desert to hope that 19 markers was enough. In fact, turn four was the only turn no one messed with me, and I ended up one space away from my home. Sadly, that was enough to take fourth in a game where only one person got 20 markers (Dave, who had no one messing with him and the right cards/tokens at the right time). Jay got 19 and got home, while George and I both were one space away, but George had one card left while I'd had to use them all.
I really like the game (hate Elfenroads, hate Elfengold), but this one left me flat, perhaps because I was constantly getting screwed by tokens placed on the path I'd chosen that I couldn't use. The game is a balance of leveraging other's tokens and having your own little part of the board, but some parts of the board (like the desert) are so unforgiving that if you don't have the right cards you simply won't gain any traction (or markers). Maybe it was just a bad night for me.
George headed home after this game, so we pulled out Zing!, the Simply Fun version of Sieben Siegel, a group favorite. In an apparent compensation for my earlier trouncing in Elfenlands, I had a nearly perfect game, with only one trick taken I didn't want for a total of -3 points after five hands, and even that one was a last-trick fluke. Of course, having a good hand helps, but knowing what to play when will beat anything but a really messed up distribution in the deal. With five players, it is a lot easier to dump off cards you don't want, but it is also easier to be surprised by an early round void when you thought that 15 was a sure bet. Definitely one of the best trick-taking games out there, even if I'm not so fond of the color registration on two of the suits that are difficult to discriminate between.
Thanks for hosting, Mike, despite your earlier chiropractic crisis!