Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Sunriver Retreat, Fall '06, Day 2

Saturday dawned bright and early, with all of the folks sleeping on couches (Tim and Ken) getting up about the same time as everyone else. After some friendly morning banter, the games began.


Funny story – Dave asks if Rita would mind playing a game that involved providing internet porn as a theme, and Rita gave a resounding no. So it was with great glee that Matt, Dave, and myself found ourselves in a game of this title where Rita not only provided internet porn, she was a pioneer in the field! Go Rita!

X.Net is about starting and growing your own ISP, except with content. Sort of like AOL back when that seemed like a good idea. You build servers that allow you to provide content in a variety of areas (Art, Cooking... hey, I thought this was about the internet!), as well as build your user base and affect demand to some extent. All of this is done with cards, and the cards are also used to pay for improvements, like in San Juan.

X.Net is an interesting enough game, although with very weak components and poorly written/translated rules. However, I found it to have too much downtime, confusing to play the first time (I had one rules misunderstanding or dumb play after another), and a bit too much length. You are also somewhat beholden to whatever cards you draw, and I found myself with few options on more than one turn because my hand cards didn't match what was in high demand. I suspect it would play better with repeated play, although I would be astonished if it ever saw time with the same group again. Dave won walking away with over 120 points, while I came in second with 83 in a tight race for the bottom.

Power Grid

Despite Dave giving "the look" when someone suggested this game, we had a five player game with Matt, Dave, Rita, Alex, and myself. It was Alex's first game, but he had a slight advantage in being the only person building lines in the northern part of Germany. I started on the Western edge of the board that tends to get a bit crowded, but somehow I managed to get to seven cities without having to "jump" any cities. BTW, we didn't play the southernmost section of the board.

After what may have been the cleanest game of PG I've ever played, I was the only player to hit 17 powered cities, largely because I had a very good buy of a 2 oil plant that powered 5 cities fairly early on. Our game stalled a bit in the middle when all the “under” plants in the teens and low 20’s started showing up, but everyone took that time to get their networks caught up. At one point, Matt was the Garbage King, Rita had the nuke plants, Dave was the Coal Meister, and I was the Sheik of Oil. I did not have a single turn where I discovered I was short from what my plan at the start of the turn was, a huge surprise for me. I do have to give props to Rita, who kindly allowed me to take a seventh city at the end of the 1st phase for cheap, a difference that almost certainly gave me the win. Props also to Alex, who came in second with the tiebreaker over Matt and Dave in his first ever game, with Rita only one city behind.

Fury of Dracula

Saturdays at Sunriver tend to involve longer games, at least for me, and next up was a very long game of Scotland Yard, erm, Fury of Dracula. Or it would have been, but we agreed to play for a set amount of time (until the other table got done, mostly so that we could mix up the tables a bit). I got to be Dracula (my preferred role, as well as a good position to be in if you are the only person who has been Dracula before), while Dave, Rita, Matt, and Alex played the hunters. I was doing OK. I’d been “caught” once when I went after Lord Goshdarnit in the first night, although three continuations had foiled my evil plans. At the same time, Dave located my New Vampire who was on the second space of the hidden movement track, and he got bit. Sadly, no new vampire for me, even with Dave bitten. I chose to run to sea afterwards as the hunters were converging on my position, then went east to Varna, where I was again busted, unfortunately during the day, in Bucharest. I did escape, but by that time it was time to quit. This is a fun game, but it’s a bit on the long side and we spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out exactly what happened after our combat that ended with three continuations.

Atlantic Star

Trying to break up the monolithic gaming groupings of the day, KC, Rita, Matt, and myself took on Atlantic Star, the rethemed version of Show Manager (which I own). Biggest advantage of the new game: smaller box.

I have learned to begin with a mediocre cruise (or show) that you can later use for a loan, while KC and Rita didn’t. Still, I seemed to have trouble finding cards that were even passably acceptable early in the game, and ended up shifting from one cruise to another in mid-ocean, and finished every cruise with two cards in hand. Still, I managed to snag some great scores at the end, while KC’s last cruise, which had an incredible score, was so far ahead of everyone else that it seemed a huge waste. In fact, it was, as Rita’s big score on the 5-star cruise was enough to beat my second place showing.

This is such a great game, and we were able to play and answer rules questions even without having English rules and no German speakers! I was worried that this would not play well with fewer than six, and indeed the cards are not as tight, but I think that may make the game better with the “dummy” cruises.

Arkham Horror

Dave and I are very fond of this cooperative reprint, and we played with Ken, Alex, and Liz. Yog-Sothoth was the Horror Beyond, although we never saw it. We had quite the rough start when I was faced with an open gate in the very first space I moved to and faced a Shoggoth right off. I failed to evade until I’d gotten through all of my three clue tokens (and two extra dice per token!), and then got sucked into the gate and ended up with most of my sanity gone by the time I got through.

On the plus side, Alex was a very effective Professor, although he had trouble with anything with Magical Immunity. Liz ended up devoured when she was lost in time and space (one of Yog-Sothoth’s mutant powers), and later in the game Ken and I, double-teaming a gate and passing the clue tokens back and forth as we went, lost his sanity and had to restart as well. However, we kept drawing gate spaces where there were elder signs in place, and thus never really felt like we were in trouble other than when the experiment at Miskatonic U went terribly terribly wrong and there were a bunch of critters running around the streets (with a bonus appearance by the Shoggoth).

In the end, though, we only filled up half of Yog-Shothoth’s doom track, and the final hour of the game was largely anti-climactic. Liz kept things interesting by constantly drawing Other Worlds cards that gave her heart palpitations, but the real fun was to be had with those playing Guitar Hero, which Dave and I tried out after we finished. Dave now is seriously considering buying a PS2, the game, and a television (which he doesn’t own) just to play this game. Our favorite tune: YYZ. DAH-duh-DAHHHH-DAHHHH-DAHHHH-duh-DAHHHH-DAHHHH-duh-duh…

Games not played by me: Space Dealer, Yspahan, Sceptre of Zavandor, 6 Nimmt!, and Tichu to 1000 points. Dave also got in another test game of his game with some new blood.

All in all, a very good Saturday for pretty much everyone, although Dave might have preferred something other than Power Grid. Thanks to Matt for his retro iPod full o' great tunes!

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