Seattle Cosmic convened again to combat the forces of darkness on 27 January 2001. Present were Ron and Marty Hale-Evans, Peter Schultz, Paul Unwin, John Braley, and Kathy Kizer. It was a Cosmic Night, so the first business of the evening was a good stiff game of Comic (er, Cosmic) Encounter.
As I will have mentioned in earlier newsletters (I haven't written the rest of the January ones yet), we are now using a souped-up Challenge Deck in card protectors, with extra Edicts, War Cards, and other nifty stuff. The card protectors mean we can mix and match powers from the Mayfair CE set we usually play with, with powers grabbed off the Internet -- to choose powers, we deal out Flares at random, then choose among the ones we were dealt. This week we dealt out four Flares, then chose two powers from those.
It looked as if Peter would be the alien to be reckoned with this evening; he had chosen Warpish-Macron for himself. This was a great synergistic power with terrific offense and defense capabilities. Macron made each of his tokens worth 4, while Warpish counted every token in the Warp on his side of a challenge. And while normally Macron is not allowed to bring more than one token into a challenge as offensive player, when Peter lost tokens, they went into the Warp, and each added 4 to his side! Could no one stop this galactic scourge?
Well, me, maybe. One of my two powers was the Swashbuckler, an Internet power that works like the Virus in reverse: it multiplies your Attack card by the number of tokens opposing you when you are a main player. That meant if Peter had 40 tokens on his side, and I played a mere Attack 6, my side started at 240. Fairly early in the game, I drew the Super Swashbuckler Flare, which let me use my power even as an ally. Suddenly, I had a lot of friends. Peter said, "Anyone want Macron?". Paul shook his head and replied, "It's now the worst power."
John was Changeling, an annoying power that allowed him to swap it for one of his opponent's powers when he was a main player. Fortunately, he didn't get to use it too much. One of Kathy's powers was the Internet power Despot. It's a tradition in our group to draw the alien art for the Internet powers we play ourselves. Recalling tales of the TaxDay debacle, when Dave played Judge (and which led to the banning of Judge from the game), Kathy drew good ol' Dave as the Despot. (I hope to have scans up of the art we've drawn soon, including my art for Swashbuckler. Watch this space.)
Our main rules headache of the evening happened when Marty as Silencer-Insect copied Paul's Miser. Miser is a setup power; that means some of its effect (in this case, an extra hand of cards) is allotted at the beginning of the game. Should Marty get a second hand of cards, or would her copying of Paul's power have no effect? We came to the consensus that, since Miser is allowed to draw a new second hand when it runs out of cards, we would treat Marty's faux Miser as though it, too, had just run out of cards, and allow her to draw a second hand. When the person playing Miser loses the Miser power, he may keep his second hand, but cannot use it until his power returns, so Marty got to keep her hand, but could only use it again the next time she copied Paul.
We had been using some of the tokens from the Simply Cosmic set I bought to expand my Mayfair CE/More CE set. Two of the colours we had taken from Simply Cosmic were Lavender and Pink. To help colour-blind people distinguish the tokens, the Simply Cosmic pieces have shapes printed on them as well as colours. It turns out that the shape printed on the Pink tokens was a triangle. This meant that on Marty's turn, her Pink Triangle people entered battle against the Lavender People. "Ain't that always the way," sighed Marty.
Meanwhile, we all gave Peter the Warpish-Macron as hard a time as we could manage. We devastated several of his planets. When it finally swung around to Peter's turn, Paul played the Timegash Edict, which let him take a turn before Peter did. Then John played Time Rift (an Internet Edict), which let everyone take a turn before Peter. Just as Peter began once again to believe he was finally going to get his turn, Paul played the Coffee Break Edict on him. This is an Internet Edict that compels the recipient to get up and fix drinks and snacks for everyone. (I requested chocolate milk.) Would Peter never get a turn?
Finally he did, and won despite (or, ironically, because of) massive "lederhosen" (Seattle Cosmic term: leader hosin', or leader bashing). He was actually willing to take a few of us along on the ride to Cosmic Domination, but he couldn't ask for allies because Marty had Silenced him! Peter won my old copy of Sid Sackson's classic A Gamut of Games, 2nd edition, for his trouble.
The quote of the evening perhaps came from Peter. One Internet innovation that has proved very popular with Seattle Cosmic is War Cards. War Cards are a new kind of Challenge Card that automatically wins against Attack Cards (because of the savageness of the assault) and automatically loses against Compromise Cards (because of the public relations fiasco when Amnesty Intergalactic documents the brutal attack, or whatever). Peter is just about the only one of us who doesn't like War Cards, and referring to the technique of playing a Compromise Card face-down when you suspect your opponent is going to play a War Card, he said, "If you're holding your daisies behind your back, you deserve to be shot."
Peter is actually a nice guy. No, really.
Next game up was The Big Idea, from Cheapass Games. There really isn't a lot of strategy to this game. Players place poker chips on "products" offered by their fellow players, to signify that they are investing in that product. Then a six-sided die is rolled for each product. If you roll less than or equal to the number of chips on a product, that product pays each player twice the number on the die (in dollars) times the number of chips they have on the product. The secret of the game (yawn) is to get your poker chips as early as possible on products that have six or more chips on them (and thus are guaranteed to pay off), then wait for the money to roll in. There were supposed to be twelve rounds in the game, but by Round 8, it was obvious no one was going to move their chips around anymore, and the leaders were going to stay leaders. We counted our money, and I won. (I've played the game twice and won both times with this simple strategy.)
Perhaps some more strategy can be introduced to The Big Idea; Marty has suggested being able to buy and sell chips (in the regular game, you have a fixed number). Maybe, but meanwhile the real fun of the game comes from the products people make with the cards in their hands. Players are dealt adjective cards, like Crystal, Love, and Evil, and noun cards, like Cat, Lotion, and Toy. They then form combinations, like Crystal Cat, Love Lotion, and Evil Toy, and try to convince the other players to invest. Crystal Cat and Love Lotion were the big winners this week, but Evil Toy had the best jingle, sung to the tune of "It's Slinky":
It walks downstairs
Alone or in pairs
And rips your heart from your chest.
A poisoned sting,
A horrible thing --
Everyone knows it's evil!
It's deadly, it's deadly!
It's mean, it's evil, it's bad!
It's deadly, it's deadly!
It kills your Mom and your Dad!
(Parody by Paul, with a little help from his friends.)
It looks as if the people at Playdao.com may have cleaned up their act. As you may recall, in the newsletters of 18 November 2000 and 2 December 2000, I reported on their unilaterally granting themselves a bogus "Best Game of the Year Award" for their game Dao, then putting it on their website and packaging (among other unethical marketing practices). The Wunderland Weekly News, sponsored by the game manufacturer Looney Labs, quoted us on their pages for a couple of weeks. In response to all this negative publicity, Playdao.com sent me some really nasty hate mail on Christmas Eve (!), which I set aside during the holidays and most of the month of January. I finally got around to answering it the other day, and went to their website to check on the exact wording of the "award". It was nowhere to be seen.
I cancelled my first email and wrote Karlena Pickering and "Yang" of Playdao.com to see whether they had gotten rid of the "award" for good. She replied, "Yes, the 'Voted Best Game of the Year' graphic was removed from the PlayDAO site & packaging a few weeks ago. YANG had his fun with it, so it was time for him to move on."
This is good news. It's always nice to see someone Do the Right Thing. Playdao.com has responded to public pressure in the past, for example when they stopped spamming Usenet early last year. They seem to be a company who can learn from their mistakes, which is more than I can claim for myself half the time. And they have never by any means been all bad; for example, I haven't mentioned their charity work for such organizations as the Idaho Elks Rehabilitation Hospital Hippotherapy Riding Program.
So, a happy ending? I hope so. Kudos to Playdao.com.
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Saturday, 3 February 2001, 7:00 PM at Ron and Marty's in Kent. Come play for fun and FABULOUS PRIZES!
Remember, game nights at Ron and Marty's are every Saturday at 7:00 PM. Please bring a snack or drink to share (cookies, chips, soda, juice, etc.).
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Page last updated 8 February 2001.