Friday, December 16, 2011

Salishan Gaming, Saturday through Sunday

The big game on Saturday was an 18xx game that involved Sardinia. They can make an 18xx game that takes place nearly anywhere, I guess. I was not involved, but it did tie up half of the group for nearly the entire day - I believe they finished around dinner time. I'm sure someone will disabuse me of this idea, but it sure seemed like they were at it for a long time to me.

My first game was a teaching game of Eminent Domain with Ken and KC. I find that this game tends to be tricky to learn for even the most experienced gamer, in no small part because we tend to ignore play aids and information on cards. I'm finding that the best way to teach is to focus on text for actions and symbols for roles. I also leave out advanced techs, which does not show the game off to it's fullest potential, but at the same time I think that it just becomes more confusing when they are there. I do leave in the first level techs. I believe that I came in second, as you don't get Brooks Bucks for anything but first or last.

Next up, I got in a five player game on the TtR Asia "Legendary" board, which was a lot of fun - you have Mountain Passes that require you to "burn" one of your trains for two points. Despite making a lot of mountain pass routes (and thus having a lot of my trains tied up off-map) I came very close to taking longest route and within 10 or 15 points of winning the game. Five people on any map is a tense experience, but I managed to get all of my routes completed. More of a traditional experience compared with the Team Asia side of the mapboard, but a nice addition and with some fun cities to pronounce: Dacca-dacca-dacca-dacca!

At this point, the four non-18xx'ers were going to play Agricola, which I am not interested in playing with five given my low experience level with the game, so I decided to tackle the rules (in extremely small print) for Mage Knight: The Board Game. After a couple of hours, KC and Jeff allowed me to attempt teaching the game (which I did poorly, but in my defense you must play this game to teach it and I did not get that far). We got through the first round (the Day turn) and by then it was time for dinner and then the evening activities. I did learn quite a bit about efficient deck play, however, that I put to good use in teaching the game to Alex, Dan, and Matt G the following Tuesday. I will post a separate entry on this game in the near future, but suffice it to say that it may be my favorite long multiplayer game, blending elements of roleplaying games (increasing abilities as you progress in experience), multiplayer strategy (lots of resource management in terms of cards) and wargaming (complexity level and numbers of systems). While there is a deckbuilding element, at the same time it is nothing like most games bearing that descriptor - you build your deck very slowly, accelerating as the game progresses but still very slowly. Thank goodness I had my iPad to be able to read the text in a font size more appropriate for anyone over the age of 15.

We ended Saturday with two large scale events - a Magic sealed deck/booster tournament and an auction for a set of games, using the Brooks Bucks as currency.

I may have been the last white middle-class male of my age group to have actually played Magic in card form. I have played the demo for Duel of the Planeswalkers on my PS3, but I did not buy the game and have never played the physical version, although I've probably been given a couple of hundred cards in boosters or starter packs over the years. Being tossed into a booster draft, I did what any sensible person who had drunk too much for three days in a row would do - I picked the color I had the most of in the starter deck (green), and went for that color exclusively with the idea of having some Blue cards to fill out the deck if necessary. At the end, I had enough Green to have a monochromatic deck, and I did fairly well with it. My first game with Matt saw him struggling to get any Land cards while I stomped all over him (our second non-counting game was exactly the opposite). I went on to play KC in the second round, this time narrowly losing a very close game where I came very close to wiping him out. Hilariously, there was a very strong Red card, some sort of dragon, that I had in the booster draft at one point and considered keeping it because it seemed so strong, but instead passed it to KC, who used it to kill me in our game. Ha ha! My biggest problem in that game was that I was getting almost nothing *but* Land cards (I had 15 in my 40 card deck, probably one or two too many, but this was still a statistical outlier). We played a second hand, again non-counting, where the same pattern more or less played out and KC looked to be unstoppable right up until I unleashed a Hurricane that nearly killed me but did kill him.

My final game was against Jeff, and in many ways it was the most satisfying. He had a White deck with (I think) green as a secondary color, and we were working hard to knock each other down. I was running out of cards after having an artifact that allowed me to draw extra cards with four mana (and again, I had lots of mana available). As we were getting close to the end of my deck, I forgot that I would need creatures to block if I wanted to survive and Jeff took my out, but I almost certainly would have lost anyway. KC took the tournament and I gave my cards, most of them vintage and a few apparently valuable, back to Chris as he'd supplied every card we used. This was much more fun than I'd expected, and there were many Magic games going on for the rest of the weekend. This has inspired me to consider a WoW Raid deck game again at some point (we tried this once, but it was a fail as I just wasn't as prepared to teach this game as I needed to be).

One interesting thing I noted over the course of the evening - Being the "outsider" when it came to Magic (although KC insists my play was quite good, I think a bit too generously), it was enlightening to hear people discussing different cards and effects about something I had no experience with at all. At one point, I realized that when I talk about gaming, most people have the same experience I did when it came to hearing Magic discussions. Usually you experience this with wildly different disciplines or hobbies, but in this case Magic is a big part of gaming culture and to hear something discussed that is gaming-related that had so little context surrounding it (what's a Dithering Snake Dancer - you aren't going to know from the title) was very odd. Just an observation, I make no judgements whatsoever about the CCG community at large and the Magic community specifically.

That left the auction, which seemed to consist of everyone other than Jeff hanging onto their BB as though they were something other than scrap paper. I ended up with several games - Gift Trap, Quartto, some card game that uses letters on the cards to create a variety of word games, and Drunter & Drueber. We also learned what all of the secret BB awards were, most of the ones not awarded being about complaining about various things. I guess that's a good thing - most of the positive awards were handed out.

I should note that while waiting for the auction, we also learned that I had missed winning the iOS Ascension tournament to Greg by five points. I assume, given that most of my five games averaged over 70 points, that this was effectively a tie when considered statistically. That's my story and I'm sticking with it.

Sunday was short, with mostly Magic games going on, plus a rematch of Eminent Domain with the full game (I won on a tech strategy, but KC and Ken, with planet and influence strategies, respectively, were within a couple of points. This game is perhaps the deepest of the deckbuilding genre in terms of long-term play, and I recommend it so long as you have gamers involved. We also finally tried out Team Asia TtR with six, Matt R (who is not fond of the series, but like this one a lot) as my partner as we sailed to a victory. This may become my favorite six-player game, although Medici will be a close second at worst.

At that point it was time to pack up and head home. Interestingly, aside from one point on Friday where I realized that we were only about halfway into the weekend, and another point where Greg suggested on Saturday that we all agree that it was really Friday, I did very well at living within the moment rather than being sad that the weekend was drawing to a close. I attribute this to both the alcohol and my midnight excursions to the beach to enjoy the sounds of the surf (it was largely clear, but too bright of a moon to have done any stargazing, unfortunately). This is kind of a big deal for me, learning to improve my experience on a conscious basis, and then to have it become an automatic response. While in the context of gaming it may seem like a minor accomplishment, on a larger scale (specifically regarding my hypertension issues) this may be the key to improving my life in significant ways.

Huge thanks to Chris for hosting a bunch of internet whiners (you can't expect good internet service when you're out about a mile on a sand spit) with good humor in what is a fairly tight space for 10 people. I really enjoyed the various metagames we played over the course of the weekend, although I will not even try to recreate them at Sunriver as I can't imagine I could do nearly as fantastic a job as Chris did. I also enjoyed discovering the Andy Samburg/Justin Timberlake SNL Digital Shorts (D*ck In A Box et al), which produced much hilarity for me on Saturday night if not for everyone else. Thanks also to everyone attending for making the experience so much fun. It's nice to have such great gaming partners and friends.

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