Seattle Cosmic Game Night

(Saturday, 23 September 2000)

The Arcana of Zarcana

by Ron Hale-Evans

It was time for Seattle Cosmic Game Night again last Saturday, and John Braley, Kathy Kizer, Dave Adams, Paul Unwin, and Kam Yee convened at the apartment of Marty and Ron Hale-Evans (also present) for a night of games with Ron's newly-expanded Icehouse set. The favourite Icehouse-class game of all present was Zarcana, so that's what we played (while Kam read Greek classics and took a nap). Everyone picked a colour and hunkered down.

clear ............. John
blue .............. Kathy
green ............. Marty
black ............. Dave
red ............... Paul
yellow ............ Ron

Marty consulting the Zarcana reference card as the game begins

Above you can see Marty checking the rules reference for Zarcana. It took a while to get the game started, and I know some of us (not just me) were impatient. Certain players whose names I shall not mention (but whom nevertheless we all like and appreciate very much) decided to socialise Saturday (not bad in itself, mind you!) rather than listen to the rules, so the rule-figure-outers gave up and read the rules quietly to themselves instead. As a result, the aforementioned players were somewhat confused when the game started. Oh, well... I don't blame them, really; I wasn't exactly setting forth the rules like a Ciceronian orator. We all missed Mark Purtill's clear, commanding, concise rules summaries. ("Do you have Mark on speed-dial?" asked Dave.)

The end of the first turn

On the first turn, the clever Zarcana players went immediately for the Cups cards, which let them grow and clone themselves. I, however, quite literally played the Fool: I put my first minion on the Fool, having seen it be quite a powerful and advantageous card in previous games, but in this game, the first two or three times I drew a Cup that would let me clone my minion, the second card I drew was a Sword, and since I was the only player on the card, I had to destroy my second minion immediately. Serves me right for thinking I can control the most powerful, whimsical card in the whole Tarot... This was my first major mistake of the evening.

What to do when the card a minion's wasteland is next to becomes a wasteland itself? Obscure rule, contrived photo.

Dave had landed on the Lovers, which let him create indefinite numbers of minions in the wastelands (just like the real-life superpower of the same name), so he kept placing large, jet-black 3-pointer minions in strategic positions. He was a significant power in the midgame, and those black pyramids looked so menacing, we named him Darth. Paul decided to do something about Darth, so he blew away one of the most important cards Dave was next to. This left Dave's wasteland space beside, not a card, but another wasteland space. What to do? It wasn't in the rules reference, so I had to peruse the actual rules. Please amuse yourselves with yet another hokey photo of me looking puzzled with a rulebook in my hand (above).

Later in the game, I blew away the Lovers card with my Tower card while Dave's minion was still standing on it. Dave could no longer create stormtroopers in the wastelands. I could have destroyed Darth much earlier, but neglected to do so. This was my second major mistake of the evening -- not too bad in the long run, though, as Dave didn't win.

Marty happened to catch Paul in the act of the heinous sin of slug-abuse (see below). Unlike the premeditated head-scratching photo above, these photos are completely candid shots of Paul obviously thinking about something else during Zarcana... (You're lucky, Paul -- I considered making these an animated GIF, but decided not to in light of the Burn All GIFs boycott.)

Completely uncontrived photos of Paul committing slug-abuse

Paul shouldn't feel bad, though; we all have to do something while waiting for John to finish one of his turns. Below is some modern art we created during one of those geological ages. (I like Dave's the best. Tricky!)

What we do while waiting for John to finish his turn.
(Black = Dave, green = Marty, red = Paul.)

Three hours later, John declared the final round, and we all had our last turn. Marty, who had been wiped off the board several times by her friendly co-players, shot out of last place in the final couple of rounds. John was in the lead, and Marty was really the only person who could beat him, so we all kibitzed on her final moves. She placed a minion on a face-down mystery card I had laid down at the beginning of the game using the Wheel of Fortune card (you can see it in most of the above photos). Everyone (except John) hoped the card had enough points to win, but I knew better, and Marty turned the card over to reveal a mere 6-pointer. John had stomped us again.

Game over.

Yes, John had won again. John's score was 31, Marty's was 28, and just for comparison, mine was 10. (You can see my three miserable minions, only just cloned at the end, on the lousy 10 of Cups in the center of the board -- my third and biggest mistake of the night was forgetting you can use court cards as any suit. I kept desperately waiting for Cups to show up in my hand in order to grow and clone.) Ah, well. Just goes to show you what happens when one of your friends is a former chess master. Perhaps we should all follow John's example of extra-long turns, or perhaps we should get a chess clock, as we keep threatening to. We awarded John a water pistol. (One of these days Marty and I are going to sit down and tabulate how many people have won at the various Seattle Cosmic games, then present the results online. Stay tuned.)

The usual photo of John showing off his prize.

Most people felt too pooped to play another game -- six-player Zarcana takes a long time! -- so we just hung around and chatted. Eventually the guests went home and Marty and I were alone. We still felt pretty chipper, so we played a friendly game of Martian Chess in order to extend the Icehouse games tourney a little longer. This was the first game of Martian Chess either of us had played, and we enjoyed it quite a bit. Weird mechanics, but it manages to feel chesslike; Marty calls it "Chess Lite", but maybe that term can more aptly be applied to Chessence, also a nifty little game.

For the record, Marty beat me at Martian Chess 17--14, which she considers a "trouncing".

A friendly game of Martian Chess after the guests have gone.

Note that in the above photo, the cloth chessboard that came with my Black Ice set does not have the "canals" that Looney Labs currently advertises as a feature. There were a couple of other things wrong with my Black Ice order too, but they promise to make good on it, so I'll keep you informed. Meanwhile, 30 September is not a game night, so if you show up, you'll only be put to work hauling boxes of our stuff, newly liberated from storage in Kentucky and crossing the Rockies in a truck somewhere even as I write. Seventy... boxes... of books.

Cheers, ciao, and see you on 7 October!


Saturday, 7 October 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 26 September 2000.