Seattle Cosmic had a fairly low-key game night on Saturday. There were only 6 people present this week, from a high of 9 a couple of weeks ago. The players included (alphabetically) John Braley, Marty and Ron Hale-Evans, Mark Purtill, Peter Schultz, and Paul Unwin. Since we play Cosmic Encounter at alternate meetings and we did not play it last week, Saturday was a "Cosmic night".
Just about everyone had arrived by 8:15 or so. Marty and I were running late in getting things set up, and she stepped out to get some soda a little after Paul, Peter, and John arrived. Since Cosmic takes a while to set up, Peter took the initiative to get things going, and we were set up before Marty returned. Mark arrived while we were setting up Cosmic, and since Paul had promised to teach us the card game Frickin' A (also called F*ckin' A, and one of the many folk games known as Screw Your Neighbour), we all played Frickin' A until Marty returned.
Frickin' A is simple, fun, and evil; I hope I can coax Paul into writing down the rules. The famous Pagat card games site does not list Frickin' A among its many card games (although it may be there under another name), and the game cross-listed as Screw Your Neighbour has its main listing under Cuckoo, and bears no resemblance to either Frickin' A, or Oh Hell, which we know as Wizard and is sometimes also called Screw Your Neighbour.
Confused? Not half as confused as we were in the game of Cosmic I'm about to describe. Meanwhile, Mark won the Frickin' A game, and for his trouble was given a toy anthology: some glow-in-the dark skeleton stickers from Archie McPhee and a bendy skeleton with a "Have a Nice Day!" smiley face where the skull should be, ditto. You can't see the smiley too well in this picture, so Mark is reproducing its expression:
Did I mention Cosmic confusion? The first source of confusion was that Peter insisted we play with 3 CE powers apiece instead of 1 or 2. The second was that we had a number of similar powers in the game. Paul had Loser, which wins when it loses and loses when it wins. John had Calculator, which subtracts twice the value of the lower attack card played from the value of the higher one. Marty had Obverse, which makes positive attack cards negative and negative ones positive, and also Pacifist, which wins with a Compromise card. Here's a shot of people gesticulating wildly after John (Calculator) played a +5 and Marty (Obverse) played a +10 Attack and a x-3 Kicker. (Correction of 5 Jun 2000: John's card was a -5. Look at the pretty pictures, Ron...)
Did I mention that Mark was the Dictator? That meant he could order anyone to attack anyone else. He wasn't as bloodthirstily gleeful about it as I had been when I played Dictator, but he did have a certain Ming-the-Merciless quality. Much of the evening consisted of Mark saying things like "It would be... amusing... for the Calculator to attack the Obverse" and the rest of us scrambling to think very, very hard (especially John and Marty; see below):
Mark's Dictator was especially powerful because he had loaded the Destiny Deck with disproportionately many colour Destiny cards during setup, with the other players' acquiescence and over my protests. The Dictator has no power over grey Destiny cards, and Mark told us he was putting in a mix of 6 grey Destiny cards and Comets (which have no relevant effect on the Dictator, and vice versa). Mark was being disingenuous; he had put in only one grey Destiny card; the other 5 cards in the mix were Comets. In effect, there was only one challenge during the entire game (barring his own) that Mark did not control. People, will you listen to me next time?
Ahem. Sniff sniff. Speaking of snivelling, Paul had drawn Sniveler-Loser-Disease, and demonstrated this unappealing genetic combination to us:
Peter, meanwhile, had drawn Mind, Trader, and Vulch, another combination that allowed him to acquire an enormous hand of cards, just as he did a couple of weeks ago, when we shot a nearly identical photo. Hmm, it does seem that Peter's game strategies tend to center around acquisition...
The Space Slug, meanwhile, had gotten peckish, and decided it would surf the Cone in search of snack crackers...
The Slug found its snack crackers in a hideous ceramic bowl. (If Marty were made into an alien race in Cosmic Encounter, her power would be finding kitchenware in thrift stores to sell on eBay. However, for some inexplicable reason no one wanted to buy this garish piece of... of... er, of folk art, so we're stuck with it for the time being. Marty insists the bowl is "swankily groovy".)
Yes, the Slug found its snack crackers, but in the desperate grab for the last cracker Peter found the slug!! (You should see what he did to the toffee corn.)
He grasped the Slug firmly...
...He raised it to his lips... and then...
And then what? Is it the end of the line for the Seattle Cosmic Space Slug? Will the Slug return for new adventures, or is it already building healthy bones and muscles in Peter's body? (The U.S. RDA for slugs has never been determined, but we know they're good protein, and they probably taste like chicken.) Stay tuned, same slug time, same slug channel...
John was playing Schizoid in addition to Calculator, so he had written down secret win conditions for the game. Each challenge, the offensive player was permitted to ask him a yes/no question about the conditions. The game went on and on, since we didn't even know how many foreign bases we needed. We eventually found out we needed exactly 4 bases to win, with there being some other special condition having to do with tokens. Some people had 5, and as the game dragged on I obtained 6 just to be safe -- a pleasure one rarely has in Cosmic!
The 5- and 6-basers were counting on a Cosmic Zap card showing up eventually. It would nullify John's power and allow normal win conditions (5 foreign bases) to resume. We were especially hopeful since Peter was Vulch and hoarded edicts, and therefore could steal the Cosmic Zap back even if it got nullified by an Edict Zap from John.
John's secret win condition was (and I quote): Winner(s) must have only 4 foreign bases and these bases must be of 2 (and only 2) colors. In other words, your exactly 4 foreign bases had to be in exactly 2 other players' systems -- either 2 in one system and 2 in the other, or 3 and 1.
A Cosmic Zap never showed up. There was one 14 cards down in the deck, so if we could have held out for another couple of challenges, we could have zapped John, but he fulfilled his secret conditions and won before the Zap came up. (He told us I had come close to winning inadvertently at one point.)
Here's John holding his prize, a glow-in-the-dark, skull-shaped piggy bank from Archie's. It's life-sized! (If you're an Australopithecine.) John recited, "Alas, poor Ethan Hawke..." That Ethan Hawke is going to play Hamlet was news to me. I liked him very much in Gattaca, so here's hoping he has the Shakespearean chops. You people reading this months in the future have us at a disadvantage, I think.
At this point Mark left, and we broke out the old Sid Sackson game Sleuth (known to some of us as Slut). "Sid Sackson is one of Ron's personal saviours right now", said Marty. Come to think of it, he is!
Sleuth is a game of deductive logic similar in some ways to Clue, but with no game board and less chance involved. The slogan for the game runs, "Solve the mystery of the missing gems!" Each player gets a number of "gem cards", each of which is one of 3 types of gem (diamond, pearl, or opal), 3 types of setting (solitaire, pair, or cluster), and 4 colours (red, yellow, green, blue). 3 x 3 x 4 = 36 gem cards, one of which is hidden (this card shows the missing gems). Any gem cards remaining after hiding one card and dividing the rest equally among the players are placed face-up, and each player gets 4 "search cards" that let her query the other players on how many of certain gems they have, and in some cases see the cards. Since search cards are dealt face-up at the beginning of the game, we left them that way throughout, even after replenishing them. It didn't seem to make much difference, but then this was the first time any of us had played; maybe expert players can get an edge by seeing other player's search cards.
It was about 11:30 when we started playing, and the game lasted until 1:00, but I think most people wanted to "solve the mystery of the missing gems", because there were no suggestions to fold the game, although there were frequent comments about confusion and headaches; Sleuth is a real brainbender. Paul fidgeted and remarked he should have taken his Ritalin first (I'm morally certain that's a joke). Here he is thinking hard and flipping his pen in that idiosyncratic Pauline way:
Some people evidently mistook Sleuth for a social game like Cosmic Encounter and tried to finesse it: Peter kept asking if his opponents wanted to hazard a guess as to the missing gems (uh, right, Peter), and John kept complaining that he was far behind everyone else and had no idea what he was doing, a tactic that sometimes has a little effect in a leader-bashing game like Cosmic, but had absolutely none in Sleuth.
Here's a shot of the layout as it appeared to me. (You'll notice my head is nowhere present in this photo, nor any other this week.) The cards with magnifying glasses on them are search cards; the gem cards are all secret, so do not appear face-up. The black card in the center with Sherlock Holmes on it is... the missing gems!
I had narrowed the missing gems down to one of 4 gem cards, 2 of which were blue pearls, and 2 of which were completely unrelated. On her turn, Marty asked to see someone's blue pearls, so I gathered that she had a suspicion that the missing gems were some kind of blue pearls. Players have the option to ask any question they want of another player on their turn, even if they don't have the appropriate search card, if they then guess the missing gems. (If they guess wrong, they lose, but must still answer queries.) I knew that no one else had the blue pearl pair, and Marty was the only person left who might. If she didn't have it, it was the missing card. I figured I had a 50:50 chance -- if she had both blue pearls, I was hosed, but if she had only one, I should guess the other kind, especially if the other kind was the blue pearl pair. I gambled and guessed.
You're only supposed to circle your guess on your score sheet and check the missing gem card silently, but I was so excited I announced it to everyone. Fortunately, I was right, and won the game. Here are the "missing gems" and the winning score sheet. I had already embezzled a Star Trek font pack from the Archie McPhee prize supplies Marty and I had laid in, so I considered myself well-rewarded.
That's it for this week, sports fans. Here's a score card:
Note: Some jokes this week courtesy Marty Hale-Evans. Valid where prohibited by law.
Saturday, 10 June 2000, 8:00 PM at Ron and Marty's in Kent.
Remember, game nights at Ron and Marty's are every Saturday at 8:00 PM. Come play for fun and FABULOUS PRIZES! Please bring a snack or drink (cookies, chips, soda, juice, etc.).
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Page last updated 11 June 2000.