Tuesday night, and it's my wife's birthday. So what am I doing? Hosting game night. Whoops.
A new record, or at least tying an old one - we had 12 people here to game. I definitely need a bigger house. Definitely a record - we had four games going at once, although I think that Blokus Trigon may only have lasted for five minutes. Still, that's quite impressive given the dearth of flat surfaces to play games on. We were down to using the teeny tiny table in the living room (about 2 feet across and round), as well as the dining bar between the kitchen and family room. Still, everyone seemed to have a good time.
First, some of the games going on that I wasn't a part of: Alex and Dana playing Battlelore on the dining bar. Tim, Carey, Liz, and Peter playing Blue Moon City in the dining room, KC and Rita playing a short game of Blokus in the living room, and Tim, Carey, Peter, KC, and Rita playing a game that KC is designing to aid people in the developing world who don't have access to computers do urban development. Really.
But the real fun was to be had in the family room, where Ben, Mike, Chuck, and myself took on Catan Histories: Struggle for Rome. There's an acronym for you: CH:SfR. Sounds like something you'd see in a doctoral thesis on genetics. Fortunately, Struggle is not nearly as difficult as all that, although for those who are used to dozens of Catan games it does have many significant differences, which I think are all to the better. See my previous posting on this game for the details.
I was set up to go last, which seems to be to be a fairly large drawback. While I still say that there's something to be said for just hanging back that first turn with one of your tribes and sticking around the valuable area while getting a resource of your choice, there is less thrill when the resource turns out to be a cow. Now cows are great and everything, but they also are easily the least valuable resource in the early game. And I drew three cows for every horse in this game, starting early. I also made a big mistake in sending my warrior tribe down into Italy for his second plunder marker. Big mistake - I ended up stuck down there for turns and the seemingly great resource intersection I was on (which included two wheat spaces) never panned out over the three or so turns I sat there.
Nonetheless, I felt like I was not too far out of it, especially when Ben managed to steal Chuck's Diplomat points and prevent Chuck from winning the game fairly early in what was looking like a runaway (although it could have been anyone, we were all pretty close). However, I'd run out of gold early and was having a lot of trouble getting more as I kept having to use it for a needed resource instead of being able to use it for development cards. I did get a lot of dev cards early, including the nice 1vp variety, but three diplomats is useless if that's as many as you get - I think the other cards are much more useful, and I did get a couple of traitors, but in the end I suspect that they were less useful than I'd have liked.
Once Ben got his 2vp for the Diplomats, it was off to the races between him and Chuck, with Mike completely stalled (too many wheat spaces in his kingdoms), and me about two turns from getting to 11vp, one on a good set of rolls. I had built my kingdoms on a great set of resources that guaranteed me cards on all but four rolls (2, 12, 4, and of course 7). It was a good effort at a comeback, but in the end not enough. Chuck was the first to hit 11vp, but Ben managed to eke out the win with 12, and 7 gold pieces from a late Goth Gold card would have certainly meant the tiebreaker would have gone to him anyway.
Our game took a good 2.5 hours, mostly because everyone was playing for the first time but me. I felt like I was able to play briskly on my part, as the map isn't all that complicated and with a little experience you learn to read it efficiently. Despite my loss, I feel that good placement of kingdoms is critical in the endgame, and in my case it nearly got me to 11 points which is usually enough for a win. Regardless, I think the game is playable within the stated 90 minutes. We will certainly get another few games of this in, as everyone but Mike thought it was fantastic, while Mike thought it was Settlers, but a bit better.
I did think I made a couple of mistakes early on that I hope not to repeat. One was using a traitor card very early in the game with my warrior unit. I was going fourth and felt that taking plunder would be a better choice than not (all of the two cities in reach had been taken), when I should have stayed in the barbarian hinterlands and gotten some good swag after the next resource roll. The second mistake, perhaps the big one, was with the warriors in southern Italy. There, I used another traitor card to plunder a 4 city, netting me yet another cow. I should have taken two gold, enough to get me up to the French Riviera where I could have gotten my third plunder color one or two turns earlier, which very well may have put me in the running for the win.
One other thing I wish I had done but did not, more because of a lack of opportunity, was to get more than one wagon on one of my tribes early. You'd think that with the cows that would be easy, but the truth was that wheat and horses were scarce resources for me the entire game, and I almost always needed those resources to build up my tribes and for movement. That's also why I had so much trouble with gold - I was using it to move or for horses to build up the tribes. This game is a lot like Formula De - it's all a matter of hitting the corners with the right rolls, and a bad roll will set you back one or more cycles, while a good one will actually gain you cycles by setting you up for a favorable gear in the next roll. Struggle is a lot like that, and the good news is that good play will mitigate that more than in any of the other Settlers variants I've seen.
Thanks to all who came and played games!
PS - Wii Hunt Update:
Wii needed to run by the mall today, so I did what had been suggested by the drone working at Babbage's a few weeks back and stopped by on Wednesday before noon. While I did score an extra nunchuk controller (very hard to find), I was also told that (contrary to previous information) Wednesday is not "the" day for shipments, that they come in every day and the Wii's are randomly scattered with some coming in on Mondays, some on Thursdays, etc. No way am I camping out at the mall on a daily basis, so I guess it will be me checking in at the Game Stop near Jesse's store on alternate Thursdays, perhaps a stop at a convenient location if I'm there around 11:30am. That and the Fred's Tuesday and Friday strategy, although clearly I will need to ask them again when the shipments come in as I've been misinformed once already.
At least I got the Nunchuk, which is good. I'd nearly ordered one from Nintendo just that morning, but was lazy. More on Friday after the bi-weekly AM run to Fred's.