Tuesday, May 25, 2010

WBC West - The Evening Games

I've covered the first two evening games (Successors and A Brief History of the World), so I'll just continue on from there.

2010 was a bit different because we didn't really plan any specific evening games, just brought a ton of stuff figuring we'd find things to play. I think that worked to a point, and that point may be good enough as I like having some more flexibility in the schedule given that so much is scripted.

Here's the list of what got played each night by me. I'm not completely sure of what others played, so I'll let those who blog those events cover them.

Sunday: Successors

Monday: A Brief History

Tuesday: Leaping Lemmings
I may be the only person in the group who enjoyed this game. We played six-player with Mike, Eric, Mimi, Chuck (who had to take a business call for most of the game, we moved him by committee and he won!), myself, and Tex. There is very little chance for strategy or (on occasion) even much in the way of tactics. That said I found it to be an utter hoot, even with six (as you move every player turn and there's little downtime). You may not do *much*, but you do *something! Would it be better with wooden cubes instead of cardboard punch-outs for the lemmings and eagles? Maybe. I just know that there's a pretty fun and wacky screw the other player game here that still requires a little bit of thought. Recommended with the strong caveat that you should almost certainly try to get a play in before making a purchase, as so many people in our group "tolerated" it at best.

Wednesday: Battle For Normandy Set-Up 
Spent this evening getting BfN set up for the next couple of days, and got through the para drops and the first two of three invasion phases for June 6 AM. As I've said in the BfN specific post, I could just as easily spent this time setting up for the scenario that starts on June 6 PM and played a different game.

Thursday: Race for the Galaxy, Big Deck
A quick before-bed game after playing Battle for Normandy until around 10:30pm, against Matt and Alex, who had arrived that day. Both were very punchy and that made for a particularly entertaining game. I went with whatever original world it is that gets Brown worlds cheap. I was able nab most of the bonus points, with close to half my points coming from them. I was never able to find a good 6 point development, though, and Alex squeaked by me for the win. I've been playing the solitaire AI version recently and really like it, although I almost never win. I'm definitely getting to know the deck, though! My first time with the RvI expansion, I've only used Gathering Storm before and then only a couple of times.

Friday: Tales of the Arabian Nights, Aliens
Let's be clear - Tales is not the kind of game that can really even be considered a game other than at the end someone wins, which is really more about putting an end condition on what is more of an experience than a game. That said, we had a ball. I seem to be a magnet for every crazy condition or status you can get - in this one, I was Insane, Wounded (briefly), Grief-Stricken, and Incontinent. Or something. Matt cruised to the win in our five player game, which featured Tex, Mimi, Alex, and myself as well. Protip - be sure to print out the "early" tables in the front that you use before going to the Matrix, then let one player look that up, another player look up the matrix, and another player read the paragraph.

Huge advantage to this game - you can teach it on the fly, which makes for not only a better experience for the group, but also for the teacher.

Roger had brought a copy of Aliens, which I owned once but was so turned off by the perforated sheet cards and low production values that I never played it after one quick play through. Like Tales, this is much more of an experience game than anything else, if more coop, and really requires several players in the right mood to work well. Two glasses of wine and four beers is, apparently, the right amount of alcohol to put it over the top. I'm pretty sure we didn't win, but I'm also pretty sure we didn't completely lose. BTW, for those who are familiar with the game, we played the reactor room scenario. I almost wish I hadn't sold my copy now...

Saturday: Battlestar Galactica!
The big question: would Mike be a Cylon again? Because he's been a Cylon in almost every game I've played against him. He complained about that and then picked Baltar, because he gets and extra card and apparently Mike really likes being a toaster. Frak.

This was the first game for Roger and Dave, not sure about Matt. I did the usual "this is your Loyalty card, don't spend a lot of time looking closely at it," then covered the skill check mechanism. We had a pretty busy first half, capped by a massive Cylon assault that took out about half of our civvie ships, leaving us in a precarious position wrt population. However, we got out in more or less one piece with the sense that no one had drawn a cylon Loyalty card yet, although I was very suspicious of Dave.

The second half saw a relatively quiet period, although as Admiral I used Saul's power to take the Presidency from Matt as I knew *I* wasn't a Cylon. Matt eventually managed to get it back, but by that point I was pretty sure he was a Cylon. Meanwhile, Mike was pretty sure Roger was a Cylon, and sure enough he revealed shortly thereafter, claiming that he was a terrible bluffer. Somewhat hilariously, he was able to look at one of Matt's cards, and pronounced him not a Cylon, so when he revealed it was pretty clear that it was Matt. I took the Presidency back again via the Quorum card that lets you take that office away, and then Matt revealed.

At that point, Roger threw a huge Cylon assault at us. We'd been missing jump cards for a bit since the turn around point, and it had taken a while for us to get to the first jump, which only gave us one distance (both cards sucked). We had nearly every raider on the board, and then even more showed up. With most of our vipers in the damaged box and all but two civvie ships on board, we went down in flames with the Population marker dropping immediately.

It turned out that no one *had* been a Cylon the first half of the game. I think that's one of the things I love about the game - it starts out as more or less a coop, then at the turn it becomes a massive paranoia game, which eventually turns into a survival/destruction game. Dave did not like the downtime or the samey-samey nature of the various skill checks, but I think that while there is a certain amount of downtime in terms of getting to take a turn, there is no downtime in kibitzing and protestations of loyalty. That's the heart of the game, "Fun With Paranoia," and while Dave felt the game was too close to Shadows Over Camelot, I feel that it's much more of a natural evolution that improved that system by leaps and bounds, the skill check mechanism is brilliant in allowing players to avoid showing who is disloyal (unlike SoC), and the Gut Check in midgame brings it on home. I still prefer the basic set over Pegasus, but there's really no reason to include it if you don't want to. The game is still huge fun - the fact that it was pretty much the only group game Mike played (aside from Successors, which he did *not* like) and enjoyed speaks volumes to me.

I enjoyed all of my evening activities, with the possible exception of the invasion turns of BfN, which was fine. We did what we needed to do and I still got in a fun game that evening. I was mildly disappointed not to get in Arkham Horror (although that's a hard sell for most of this group, mostly just Dave, Chuck, me, and possibly Alex and Matt), and very disappointed not to get in Manifest Destiny, which has been an evening staple for a while at both WBC West and our Euro retreats in the fall. Still, I have no real room for complaints - the company was excellent, the games were fun, and I got repeated chances to rest my brain after spending the days playing games for essentially the first time. The idea of the lighter evening fare was a brilliant idea, whoever had it, and it's made the week better because of it.

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