Sunday, August 05, 2007

Ran Over - Guest Entry

One of the things I really enjoyed about the now defunct Gathering of Engineers blog that I contributed to was the input of many voices, occasionally talking about the same thing. Having fewer posts to do was, in one way, a lower burden on the individual writer. Of course, there was pressure to come up with a topic on a regular basis other than just when you felt like it (such as this blog), and in the end I found myself without topics on occasion. Sometimes this led to a stream-of-consciousness entry, sometimes it led to me playing smacky-smacky wtih gaming podcasts and a stint as Mr. Whiney on the Dice Tower. Which meant I once again had the pressure of deadlines and coming up with interesting topics on a regular basis.

Since I'm only doing gaming posts when the mood strikes me, and very little in the way of session recaps, one of my gaming friends asked if he could contribute from time to time. I'm going to post a few things from him from time to time, and next time I'll remember to do it within a week or so of when he sends the essay to me (this one has languished for about a month - damn you, World of Warcraft!)


I'll let him introduce himself...

--------------------(Dug-Free Zone)---------------------

First of all, here’s quick note of introducing myself. As Doug is on a Euro-game reporting hiatus, I volunteered to occasionally write some game content for his blog. My name is Chuck Lietz and if you’re a regular reader here on either Doug’s website or on some of the other RipCityGamer’s blogs, you’ve probably heard my name at one point or another. I’ve been playing games all my life and in particular really grew up at a young age playing countless hours of card games while growing up in the Midwest. As I got older, my father who was a history professor brought home a copy of Tactics II that he had found at Goodwill and thought it would be something my older brother and I might like for awhile and then we’d move on. Little did he know where this would lead in that I have been an avid wargamer for about 30 years now with a collection of well over 1,000 titles. We would occasionally play some of the AH family game lines and the old chestnut Rail Baron was a favorite of ours despite its prodigious length. I believe it was the summer of 2000 when I first met Doug at a local gaming convention playing a game of Brittania and when first told me about his group of “Euro” gamers. My first thought was “Yuk, why don’t you guys keep me out of your games of Candyland and Life” but I didn’t really have any other wargaming face-to-face opponents and we exchanged e-mails with the thought of playing War at Sea. When we subsequently met, he and I hit it off right away and eventually I agreed to try coming to a few of the RCG game night sessions and later moved on to became a “regular” member.

I have lately been playing a lot of two-player games, both Euros and wargames and so I’m always on the lookout for good designs to put into the rotation. While my wargame collection is huge, I really don’t buy many Eurogames limiting it pretty much to either my top 10 list, Martin Wallace designs, and a couple of dungeon crawls. However, a recent development is that my wife has started to show some interest in games and this usually takes the form of two-player friendly designs and so I’ve tried to actively find games I think we’d enjoy. So, when Mike Deans (who is a Simply Fun rep) told me about the game Drive my first response was sounds interesting but I’d have to try it out first before I buy. Mike and I played some hands and I quickly concluded that this was a fun little game that I thought my wife would like and so I bought a copy.

Drive is a very straight-forward card game that I believe retails for about $22. For your hard earned shekels, you get a deck of 110 cards, a small board, rules, and a box. The components are serviceable and effective but other than the drawings of the cars on the cards, there’s not a lot of eye candy here. The cards are of average quality and I do think you could easily wear out a copy which is a minor annoyance. I probably would have preferred to skip having the marginally useful board in favor of getting thicker cards but not a show stopper. Rules are clear and while the game is simple, it is amazing how even simple games can sometimes end up with poor or confusing rules but that is not the case here. After Mike explained the rules, I think I’ve only skimmed them once which is a good sign.

The 110 card deck has 9 suits of cars and every card in each suit has the same value which matches the total number of cards of that suit which are in the deck. For example, there are 6 cards in the deck of the 6 suit, and 18 cards in the deck of the 18 suit, and so on. The object of the game is to score the most points and you get points based on the value of the suits you control. Game play for Drive is similar to Gin Rummy and your turn is essentially to draw two cards and then either play a set of matching cards in a suit or discard a card face-up that your opponent could subsequently draw. Playing a set can be either to start a new set or to discard and replace an existing suit that either you or your opponent has laid down at the end of a previous turn with the caveat that the number of cards in your set must exceed the number of cards in the existing set. For example, if you lay down a set of 3 cards in the 6 suit, you are guaranteed to control this set as no other player can collect 4 cards in this suit as there are only 3 more cards of this suit in the deck. The hand ends when either one player controls a majority of sets determined by the number of players (6 of 9 for two-player), when all 9 sets have been claimed, or when both draw piles have been exhausted. There’s a little bit more going on here but this is essentially it.

Now my wife generally is not a gamer and usually plays games primarily because she knows I like them. As such, most games we play I end up winning because I’ve played them before and they don’t capture enough interest for her to invest more than a casual attention to them. However, Drive has been a different story. We’ve easily played 20 plus hands and after my winning the first hand, I don’t think I’ve won another. We’ve been married for a long time and for some unknown reason, her ability to read me and then apply it to the game concepts and strategy of Drive has been downright uncanny. When I’m looking to go out early, she steals a key set to block me and when I’m looking for a longer game she is able to anticipate my motives and read into my drawing patterns to consistently beat me to the punch on winning key suits. Last night’s game was no exception and while generally I am a gracious loser (due to years of experience), losing to my non-gamer wife so consistently has been quite aggravating. At this time, I’m pretty much to the point where I need to find a new replacement game pretty quickly. However, I would still strongly recommend Drive to gamers and non-gamers alike as it is simplistic but has enough depth of tactics that it will be a game you can pick up and continue playing and (providing you win the occasional hand or two) enjoying for some time.

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