Friday, November 17, 2006

Sunriver Retreat, Fall '06, Day 3 (and 4)

By Day 3, the games start to blur together (actually, that starts happening within hours of arrival for me), so most of these reports are kind of short.


A lot of people leaving early because of snow in the passes, but we got in some early games. I taught Tempus to Matt and Ken, and managed to keep forgetting the city rule myself, but I’d taught them well and we played a clean game, right up until Ken forgot that you don’t get VP at game end for hexes with mountains! We had an interesting map, with one long lake in the middle and a small peninsula in the north that no one went to until Ken took sailing and planted a couple of quick cities up there. Ken and Matt were doing well with cities, but I had a four hex advantage over Ken, and Matt and I took the 3VP bonus. Final score was 23, 22, 21, with me sneaking in for the win. Interestingly, almost no combat in this game, largely because Matt managed to get down to only three hexes with tokens late in the game and was protected. I could have screwed Ken but good by moving tokens by sea right next to a space he was prepping for a city, then playing Government and building a small city there, but I went after another adjacent space instead and lost the combat. In the end, it didn’t matter.

In the other room, everyone else but Alex and Liz (who left after they got up) played an aborted game of Kronos, and Space Dealer again. At that point, the three Amigos (Ken, Matt, and Tim) decided to try to beat darkness as well, and off they headed for home.

The Merchant of Amsterdam

Dave 1,177, Doug 1,150 with KC and Rita in the rear. I suspect I could have won with a bit more caution in the bidding. I know a place that has this still in shrink, I will probably have to pick it up since it’s out of print and a game I’ve enjoyed on two separate occasions. KC and I had a couple of “close” bids on the Dutch clock that had some controversy, but on the first KC was more firmly in the center of the clock, and in the second I’m certain I was there first (I thought KC had picked up his hand immediately, so I picked up mine, then found out he thought he’d gotten there first. However, I remember hitting nothing but clock with my fingers, and I don’t think it affected the final score much (in fact, I suspect I would have been better served just letting KC win it, although that would not have changed the standings at all.

I am totally picking this one up after two good games. I understand people worry about the Dutch clock breaking (and, I think, rightfully so), but it's a great auction game that I need to pay more attention to as far as how much things are worth.


Hm, who could have won? Hint: Dave.


Beat out by Dave (again), an interesting game with some lucky draws for me. This game is all about getting a payout relatively early to allow you to finance more purchases. If you miss that payout and have no money for the rest of the game, it can be a long slow slog. Still, my favorite Sackson game.

Rum and Pirates

After dinner out (and a very pretty drive through the winter wonderland that was Sunriver that evening), we returned a bit burned out and tired to play this wacky title. This was my second playing (we played with five at Matt’s a few months ago), and the fun was still there, although our fatigue and some rules misunderstandings were leaving KC and Rita a bit befuddled. I moved out to a very strong lead, mostly because Dave’s rum wasn’t providing him with much help in an early bid for a strong set of saloon tiles. To make things worse for him, I won the 8 point “leftover pirate” raffle at the end of the round to take a very strong early lead.

However, things went a bit more slowly for me as the turns went on, and while I was picking up points, it wasn’t nearly as good as KC and Dave were doing. I got an 11 point map early, but avoided them (and the love-letters) after the first turn. I did, however, invest heavily in rum, which helped me out in a couple of occasions. However, my rolls finally failed me at the end, and Rita got the final leftover first place points. Not enough for me in any event, as it turned out that KC was spanking us rather soundly. I did squeak by Dave for second with a single point, however.

All of the fun in this game is in the roll offs and using the rum to try to influence the rolls. There is nothing as entertaining in the game (or as frustrating) as watching someone use four rum counters to make nine rolls and fail to beat a four. Unless it’s you making the rolls. In my first game it was Chuck, in this game it was Dave. I’m still a bit worried that the game will be boring after a couple more plays, but for now there’s a very good chance I’ll get this to play with my family.

Fortunately for all of us, KC and Rita started to get into the spirit of the game at about the 3/4s mark. This game is not too exciting if you aren’t treating it as a big dicefest and rooting for the underdog, but by game end everyone was getting into the spirit of things.


I will be honest and say that I have avoided Tichu in the past, mostly because KC commented some time ago that Gang of Four was Tichu. What he meant was that Gang of Four was a cut-back version of Tichu, which unfortunately I took as meaning a reprint, and I was not a fan of GoF. Fortunately, we got the chance to play this game, and it was this specific game that is almost certainly the high point of what has been the best Sunriver retreat ever.

After explaining the rules and playing a practice hand, we got going. Both sides started out strong, but two hands with me bidding Tichu and failing (both due to very strong hands on Rita and Dave’s parts, and a lack of understanding that holding the Dragon is a really good idea when you call Tichu), saw us fall far behind, something like 250 to 750. Things looked bad, but we battled back, and ended up scoring almost 700 points to their 130. For the final hand, I called Tichu with the Phoenix and the Dragon, a four stepped run from 10 to King that included the Phoenix, and things looked very good. I managed to get one of the two lower pairs out, but then Rita dropped a bomb on me and I was very worried. However, she next played a full house that I was able to beat by converting the Phoenix from Queen to King, played the remaining Queen to draw out the Ace and take it with the Dragon, then played the remaining Jack pair to go out. KC managed to go out next, and we went out with a bang.

This is my favorite partnership trick taking game now, hands down. It may be my favorite game period. Every hand is interesting, unlike Bridge where a good half of the time you are watching someone else run their cards. I’ve certainly had entire nights of bad hands, but even in Tichu you can root for your partner and the play is fast and always interesting. The passing of cards makes it even more interesting. This one I will beg borrow or steal at the first available opportunity. Woohoo!

Day 4

Time to get ready to go, but it’s easy work with four sets of hands and only two loads of laundry to do.


An under-appreciated game of Australian mythology and building necklaces from wooden craft pieces. Or something.

To be honest, I’ve decided that “taking off” day is a bad day for me to be involved with gaming. By then, I’m pretty wiped out, thinking about closing the house up, and otherwise distracted, and the last 10 or so last minute games for me have all been 2’s on the “fun” scale. Nothing so much to do with the game, just that I’ve got so many things to do and think about that I’m really not in the game at all. Hope I remember this next time…

All in all, this was a very successful Sunriver retreat for many reasons. While there were a few things we could have improved, in all the retreat went extremely smoothly. People tended to all get up at the same time, go to bed at the same time, kept the kitchen relatively clean, kept the recyclables separated, used the drink fridge in the garage, all the things you hope they will do. As such, I got to enjoy gaming as much as anything else, and am looking forward to the next retreat.

That said, I think that this will be the last Sunriver retreat in the late-October / early November timeframe. Weather is just too much of an issue, and now that we have so many people going to Essen and/or BGG.con it just gets more and more problematic. We actually cancelled the retreat a year or two ago in this timeframe because so many people dropped out.

What I am going to suggest instead is a retreat at the beach at Chris' place in the winter. The Coast Range is a much easier drive for most of the year compared with the Cascades, and the time of year should be more conducive to attendance. On the other hand, Chris' place won't hold nearly as many as Sunriver will, but we may consider renting an extra location nearby.

It is possible that I'll hold a Sunriver retreat in mid-September, but that will depend completely on demand. Given that WBC West will probably happen in late August (much nicer weather than the hot hot hotness we had for the first half this past July), I'm suspecting that it will take a *lot* of demand.

Regardless, thanks to everyone who attended this year, and thanks for making what is probably the last fall retreat the best one ever.

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