Four members of Seattle Cosmic met for a sedate gaming evening this Saturday. Present were Ron Hale-Evans (that's me), Tim Higgins, John Braley, and Mark Purtill. This was a Non-Cosmic Week, so we didn't play Cosmic Encounter, but instead two games of Through the Desert, and one game of Ra (both of which were designed by Our Hero, Herr Doktor Reiner Knizia, and both of which Tim Higgins brought for us to play).
Through the Desert is an interesting elaboration on the game of Go, with a thin theming of caravans and camels. Players attempt to enclose as much desert terrain as possible with "caravans", i.e. chains of small camel figurines. Unlike Go, there is no capturing in Through the Desert, which is just fine, 'cause who wants to have to deal with huge piles of sun-bleached camel bones from "dead groups"?
The bits in this game are very attractive. The camels are cute, and come in pastel colours, which we named for easy reference: Lemon Cream, Salmon Mousse, Luscious Lavender, Spring Green, and Cool Mint. (With camels in two shades of green, it was absolutely essential we get the nomenclature right.)
Players build long single-colour caravans, but can use any colours of camel they choose, as long as they connect their camels to a caravan with a camel rider of their own colour at the head. The desert in this game is not a uniform grid like a Go board, either. There are mountains, watering holes, and so on. Some of these features are worth extra points if you capture them, and there are also bonus points for having the longest chain of a given camel colour.
When the gallivanting about the desert was over, the players had the following points:
Mark: 57 John: 54 Ron & Tim: 49
Mark had won with 57 points. For his valiant efforts in the Seattle Cosmic Foreign Legion, he was awarded a package of "For Corners" [sic], transparent sticky tape things for repairing the corners of cardboard boxes, something that just about every gamer with a large game collection would find useful. (Indeed, my wife Marty had bought them at the close-out sale of the last brick-and-mortar store of Turn Off the TV.)
We like TTD so much that we decided to play a second game. Everyone was careful to leader-bash Mark, the winner of the last game, whom John referred to as the "Blue Menace" because of his camel-rider colour. (I corrected John's pronunciation to "Blue Meanies".)
Scores for the second game were as follows:
Tim: 76 John: 65 Mark: 61 Ron: 57
Tim was awarded a package of "For Corners", and I consoled myself with the fact that though I was in last place again, I did as well as the winner of the last game, so I must have learned something.
Next up was the Reiner Knizia auction game, Ra. This one was a little weird.
There are three rounds in Ra. As the eponymous Egyptian sun god passes through the vault of the heavens (i.e. the game board), you draw various tiles depicting ancient Egyptian life from a bag, and place them on the board. Periodically, you bid for tiles with one of your large wooden Sun tokens. When you win an auction, you also take the Sun token from the center of the board, and replace it with the one you used to bid. The Sun tokens you collect are yours to bid with on the next round. Scoring is complicated, and depends on how many tiles of a set you collect, how many of certain tiles you have, and the numbers on your Sun tokens.
Scores were as follows:
Tim: 53 Ron: 41 John: 33 Mark: 31
We had some apparent statistical flukes in this game, such as drawing the all-important "Nile Flood" tiles, of which there are a limited number, several times in a row. This may have marred our enjoyment of the game somewhat, but we still decided Ra was worth a second try sometime. (We agreed that Through the Desert is worth replaying many times!)
The prize bag came up dry, so I owe Tim a prize for Ra -- as well as thanks for introducing our group to two cool games!
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Saturday, 14 April 2001, 7:00 PM in West Seattle. Come play for fun and FABULOUS PRIZES!
Remember, game nights are every Saturday at 7:00 PM, at Dave and Kathy's house in West Seattle. Please bring a snack or drink to share (cookies, chips, soda, juice, etc.).
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Page last updated 16 April 2001.