I had never managed to get down to Eugene for Lorna's Eugene Games Gala, and was excited that finally I had an opening to do so. Making the decision even easier is that my sister lives there and I had a place to stay for free! Yay! I was also excited about the game exchange taking place on Saturday night, as I had a couple of titles that I thought would go over well. In fact, I ended up taking Age of Empires III, getting a copy of Wits and Wagers in exchange. I actually think that was a good deal. Someone brought a copy of Tide of Iron - when someone remarked they didn't understand why anyone would bring a game like that, I replied that I had no such problem! I haven't gotten around to getting rid of my copy yet, but I'm more and more convinced it will happen at some point.
First of all, many many thanks to Lorna for her efforts in planning this get together. She not only does all of the groundwork to prepare, she also makes it fun to come and win a raffle, have a gift exchange, and there was even a last-minute math trade (thanks to Chris for running this at the very last minute).
Anyway, on to the games. Friday gaming didn't start until 3pm, but that didn't mean I didn't play a lot of games.
French Dice Game - Lorna had a wacky (and I do mean wacky) game of rolling dice, comparing symbols on the black vs orange dice, and remembering which symbols were unique to each color. I suck, and I do mean suck, at this sort of game. I'm one of those people who tests extremely well, but remembering visual elements is not my strong suit. I came in dead last out of six. Bonus points to the packaging, which comes in the form of a book-shaped box and some very colorful graphics that remind me a lot of the Snail Race game. The theme in this case was witches, although it really could have been anything. One really annoying bit - the scoring track looked like a snarled ball of twine, with numbers spread out all over the place in no recognizable order. It was almost impossible to know who was in the lead by looking at the board. Not the last human interface issue I'd run into over the weekend, but certainly the most brain-dead.
Race For The Galaxy - This is quickly becoming my favorite filler/2-player game. I just love it. This time, KC, Rita, Chris and myself played a very fast game that I managed to win with a combination of early military world pick-ups, a card-generating machine of producing worlds that had me rarely drawing cards in the end game, and no 6-point developments. Tom Lehmann has my undying gratitude for a game that takes San Juan, gives it enough of a CCG twist to make it really interesting, and makes it eminently playable with two. This *will* be a tournament game at the next Sunriver Retreat.
In The Year Of The Dragon - A game I picked up because the whole idea appeals to me - you are constantly fighting off various dangers, which change in sequence from game to game, and balancing several game elements to do so. My first game, and I would have really enjoyed it had it moved at a decent pace (we had one very confused player whom I hadn't met before). I have to admit that I was getting a bit testy toward the end of the game with his slow play - when you have, literally, two choices and one gets you nothing, perhaps the other is the one you should take? That and five players combined to make my first foray less than rewarding, but I *really* like the game and am looking forward to playing it again. Unfortunately, everyone else felt it was a depressing game because only bad things happened and you were just trying to pick up the pieces. Chris creamed us, having played before and knowing that you grab a large prestige tile early to score it for the rest of the game.
At this point, those of us from RCG decided that we needed food and alcohol, so off to a really good Mexican restaurant we went. Two margaritas may have been one too many for me, and I ate all of my food (and lots of chips) and I felt just bad enough to end the night a little early with one last game after we got back.
Blue Moon City - This game gets such great reviews, but I still see it as an exercise in seeing if you can draw the correct cards. Perhaps there is a good long term strategy (other than just going where everyone else goes) that involves paying close attention to how everyone else is doing. Me, I tried to make good use of the cards I had at any given time and came within a turn or two of winning, but Chris had such a huge number of crystals by game end that he was unstoppable. If it didn't feel like you needed to make hay while the sun shines in this game (a useless turn in BMC feels a lot like rolling the one number on the die in Formula De that keeps you from hitting the corner), perhaps it would be a better experience. It's light and fun and interesting but ultimately just not the combination of mechanisms to keep me interested for very long. By contrast, Year of the Dragon did have that particular combination, even played at a crawl. I felt the same way about Tower of Babel, another well-accepted Knizia game - I just didn't quite get what the point of playing was. A shame, the components are really engaging, but I can't get away from feeling like this game was put out to sell the Blue Moon card game.
By now, I was regretting eating all of those chips, so home I went to get a little sleep before tackling Here I Stand the next morning. The question was - would be get more than a couple of turns into the game, even with a couple of new players? Tune in later for the answer...