Sunday, December 10, 2006

CenTu Session, 12/5/06

Wow, what a busy gaming week. Within a five day period, I got in something like 10 hours of gaming, which is a lot for me when I'm not at Sunriver.

First up was our regular Central Tuesday session, this week at Matt's. Seven of us showed up to do some quality gaming - Dave, Jim, Matt, Liz, Alex, Chuck, and myself.

Our first division saw Matt, Liz, Chuck, and me playing Around the World in 80 Days (80 Days), with Alex, Jim, and Dave playing a couple of games of San Juan. Alex apparently smacked the others around in both games.

In our game, Matt started out racing ahead in terms of position but lagging behind in terms of actual days travelled. Chuck, always Mr. Efficiency, began by going for the "last in" bonuses. Me, I tried to be as cheap as possible, within reason. In the end this strategy paid off, as I was the only person to beat 80 days, but just barely. Going into the last couple of turns I was short a rail card, and had set myself up as the start player, but was out of gold to draw extra cards if necessary. Unfortunately, no rail cards came up, and I was not only delayed one turn, but an extra day as Matt had gone in first (with a trip time of 105 days!). A Storm didn't help either, but I was able to sneak in just under the wire on the final turn for the win.

80 Days is becoming one of my favorite light four-player games - the various elements all go together to really evoke the theme, and the days vs position mechanism is simply genius. There's great tension, enough planning and strategy to make you at least partially the master of your own destiny, and even a couple of press your luck elements (which I always like). It's really a shame that the game was so poorly packaged, I think it would have gotten better sales, even at the same price point, in a Puerto Rico sized box, but I'm sure *someone* had a good reason to do box a compact game in an airplane hangar.

We all finished up about the same time, so we shuffled personnel. Chuck, Matt, and Dave played San Marco, which I'm starting to regret having sold a year ago, although I suspect the game is still available. Matt was the winner in that game.

Meanwhile, I taught, believe it or not, Samurai to Alex, Liz, and Jim. This game holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first Euro I really played right after my first mega-buy from Funagain back in the day when Funagain was worth buying from and every game that came out was novel. In fact, my opponent at the time was a 15 year old Alex, who had accompanied me to the store and was more than a bit concerned that my wife Mel might have a negative reaction to me coming home with 20 games.

Alex didn't really remember anything about the game (other than playing it), and Liz and Jim had never played, so I went over the rules, reminding people of various rules as we went. I even went so far as to make sub-optimal plays early to demonstrate specific moves you could make. We had a very strange piece placement early, with Buddhas clumped in the north. We also played with random tile draws at the start to allow everyone to learn how the various tiles worked.

I started out collecting paddies and buddhas, and initially this worked well. However, the four-player game plays hell with any strategy one may have, and this game was no exception. I set myself up rather nicely for at least a couple of buddhas in the north, only to see almost all of them get snatched up by others. At the end of the game, my 3 Samurai was nicely positioned, but never netted a piece before Liz ended the game. An ill-advised move, as it turned out, as neither she nor I had any majorities. In the end, Jim won the last tie-breaker by a single piece over Alex.

Perhaps the slowest game of Samurai I've ever played (90 minutes including 'splainin'), but worth it to teach this true classic.

Thanks for hosting, Matt!

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