Seattle Cosmic met again for a quiet evening at Marty and Ron's place in Kent. Present were Marty and Ron Hale-Evans (that's me), Mark Purtill, and Kisa Gryphon.
It was a Cosmic Night, but we were expecting one other member, so we noodled about a bit, and Kisa broke out a German game he had found at a garage sale earlier that day called Mainau Spaziergang, or "A Stroll Around Mainau". Apparently Mainau Island is a big German tourist trap, and this game was produced as promotional material, with an eye toward the school market, grandparents, and other people who buy "educational" games for kids. Although German games are renowned for their quality, we should have been tipped off by the fact that the game designer's name did not appear on the package or in the instructions -- a no-no among German games.
Each player is given six cards representing attractions they must visit on Mainau, and must arrange the cards in the order they plan to visit the attractions on the board (above), which is a map of Mainau. Orange dots on the map, or as we came to call them, "misbehavior zones", compel you to pull a Chance Card if you land on them. Chance Cards are almost all bad, and usually run along the lines of "Come now! Did you really have to pull the tail of that peacock [throw that banana peel on the ground, wade in that wishing pool, play your radio too loud]? That was very naughty. Go back 5 spaces." Gosh, none of us wanted to do these things, but when we were in the island's Orange Zones, something overcame us...
Rolling a question mark ('?') on the die meant you were asked a trivia question. About half of them had to do with the color of the walls of some restaurant on Mainau or some damn thing, and we immediately junked these "island questions" and drew a new card. Although the game was billed for ages 9 and up, some of the questions were incredibly hard (such as how many mice a particular species of owl ate a month), and we figured these were featured on the plaques of the Mainau attractions. Then again, some suffered from translation problems...
Q. What do you call mushroom seeds?
Q. What do you call baby wild boars?
A. Young boars.
Below, you can see Kisa's reaction to one of these questions:
I won the game, although it was quite close towards the end, and Marty summed up the group's reaction: "Who wants to visit this place? Damn!" (Actually, the real Mainau sounds rather nice, but the "game Mainau" is inhabited by persnickety scolds.)
Next up was the bi-weekly Cosmic Encounter game. Our errant member proved to be ill, so we went ahead and set up a vanilla game. Vanilla for us, that is. We still had War cards, plenty of Internet Edicts and powers, etc. We each drew four Flares, kept one, discarded two, and passed one right. The ones we ended up with were our powers. Here's the lineup:
Mark ..... Boomerang-Toady Ron ...... Busybody-Destroyer Marty .... Timelord-Mind and featuring Kisa as .......... Lloyd Henderson
The weird Internet powers: Toady is a power that allows the owner to ally himself permanently with a "Lord"; if the Lord wins, the Toady does too. The Toady can give the Lord good cards, Lucre, and so forth. Having Destroyer is like having a permanent Cosmic Zap, with the proviso that you cannot Zap the same power two challenges in a row. Timelord means you never have to lose powers when you lose bases; to be precise, you lose your other powers (in a multiple-power game) but then repopulate your home planets and reincarnate with new powers, like the Doctor in Dr. Who. Henderson can "steal bases", that is, can keep challenging planets counterclockwise around the board, as long as he wins each challenge (conceivably winning the game with five bases on his first turn).
I gave Mark the Toady not only because I thought it a relatively weak power, but also because I thought he would enjoy the roleplaying aspect, as he did when he played the Butler. He returned the favour by making me his Lord and Master -- it worked out quite well, as we shall see. (I thought perhaps Mark chose me because I had a very good power in Destroyer, and the only comparably strong power, Henderson, I could easily negate. Marty suggests that Mark knows me and knew I would be flattered and would cooperate well with him. Only Mark knows for sure...)
Kisa thought he had a pretty good combo in "Lloyd Henderson", and I thought Destroyer was great, so a few turns into the game, Marty played the Coup D'Etat Edict and made me Lloyd-Busybody (a worthless combo, IMHO) and made Kisa the Destroyer-Henderson (now unstoppable by me). I later found out she and Kisa considered themselves allies against the Ron/Mark Master/Toady team, so this move made good sense. Kisa still kept offering to insure people, though; I guess Lloyd had gotten into his blood.
At one point, Marty played the Commune Edict, which lets everyone share everyone else's powers, and I played the Insanity Edict, which compelled everyone to use every power, Edict, etc. they had on the same challenge. Despite this madness, the second time round the table, no one gained a single base.
Marty was Mind, as I said...
...and I used her ability to see other players' hands and report on them as a pretext to collude with Mark in a way that would normally be cheating. "Does Mark have any Compromise Cards in his hand?" I asked her loudly when I had to attack him. Surprise, surprise, we both played Compromises, and we finished our "base for a base" deal even before Kisa slapped down the Time Pressure Edict, which gave us ten seconds to do so.
Finally, my third turn came, and I won two bases (one with a War card, one with an Attack 13). Four bases for me. I then played the Timegash I had been saving and took a third challenge. I flipped the Destiny Deck -- I had to attack Mark, my own Li'l' Buddy! Mark did the intelligent thing and threw the challenge, and since he lost the challenge, I won the game, and so did he. Thanks, Mark! A loyaller Toady a marauding space alien could never hope to have!
For his joint victory (and for his unswerving fealty), Mark was awarded a photocopy of The Games and Puzzles Book of Modern Board Games, edited by David Pritchard, which analyses strategy in such classic games as Diplomacy, Ploy, Scrabble, and Escape from Colditz. (I put the photocopy in the prize bag when I found the actual (very scarce, British) book in a Half-Price Books a couple of days ago.)
Next up was Sid Sackson's 1994 German-published game Kohle, Kie$ & Knete (in English, something like "Boodle, Buck$ & Bread"), a fast, sometimes vicious negotiation game that we enjoyed thoroughly. In fact, we enjoyed the game so much that we neglected to take any photos of it, so instead here's a photo of Kisa posing between games with cards from a strange Mexican playing-card deck where the Clubs look like zucchini, and a Wiggly Giggly (a.k.a. Dog-Terrifying Device).
KK&K is a negotiation game where on your turn, you can be The Boss and negotiate a big-bucks deal, throwing dividends at investors or their lookalike relatives, whom you desperately need to close the deal. Certain cards will send the investors or their relatives on inconvenient vacations, or steal control of the investors from other players. (Of course, certain cards will stop these things from happening too.) Although there are turns, once a deal opens, and until it closes, everything happens at once, with people shouting across the table, grabbing cards, and even stealing the Boss position from the current player with "I'm the Boss NOW!" cards.
You will want to play this game, and soon, fellow Seattle Cosmickers. As evidence, consider this KK&K page at BoardgameGeek, with reviews, session reports, and a couple of photos of the game (the Funagain link at the bottom of the page has better photos, and a good description). You can also find the KK&K rules translation at The Game Cabinet. Finally, as a service to the club, I am making available (for cost) "game kits" of Spiel & Deal, the clone of KK&K that depicts gamers wrangling for prestige (sounds amazingly like Seattle Cosmic sometimes -- but I guess the point is it's a lot like a lot of game clubs). KK&K is quite rare, so I recommend you check out this "play-alike" game!
Kohle, Kie$ & Knete ended after Deal 11 had been sealed, with the following scores:
Marty ..... $49 million Mark ...... $44 million Ron ....... $38 million Kisa ...... $36 million
I knew from the outset Marty would win. She's very good at this kind of game. She's audacious and savvy. She won the last time we played Acquire too.
Mark took his leave at 11:40 PM.
After Mark left, Kisa, Marty and I sat around and chatted about the recent Seattle screening of Inkubo, the only feature film ever shot in Esperanto (the "second language for all" that currently has about two million speakers, and that Marty and I both speak to some degree). Then we tried to play the Icehouse game Trice for a bit, but we discovered that the board I printed out and constructed and Marty hand-coloured (see below) is a little too small for Icehouse pieces -- even if it were at 1:1 scale with the board on the Trice page, it would be a little small. Kisa had a spare board, but then Marty's sister and fellow SC-er Meredith came over, and Marty left me and Kisa to play some two-player games.
The game Kisa and I played next was Mentalis, a 1977 board game now sadly out of print. Fortunately, the game rules and instructions for making your own set are available gratis at the website of Abstract Games Magazine. It's a quick, light little game, but every time I play (I've played maybe four games now), I discover new tactics. Below is a shot of me (right, Red) beating the trousers off Kisa (left, Green) in the midgame with my little homemade set and some kibitzing from the Space Slug, who has put in a rare appearance...
...and further below is a shot of Kisa's having beaten the shorts off me, 13-11, after the game has concluded. Things turn around quickly in Mentalis!
For his victory, Kisa was awarded a Lindt bar. Meredith went home, Marty, Kisa, and I chatted some more, then Kisa went home around 2 AM.
Here endeth the lesson.
Mark said Saturday he had wondered whether there was a way to get a 6-way win in a Cosmic game with 6 players, and that he had figured out how to do it with Toady. (Toady wins when his Master wins, so if there is a 5-way win not including Toady that happens by invading one of Toady's planets, there is in fact a 6-way win, since Toady's Master had to share in the win.)
However, I've figured out how to have a 6-way win in totally vanilla Cosmic, without fancy Internet powers, etc.: Schizoid, a regular Eon/Mayfair power, secretly declares the winning conditions to be 6 bases (or 7, or 8...). Everyone, including Schizoid, gets to 5 bases without winning. Then someone Cosmic Zaps Schizoid, and normal winning conditions apply again. Presto! Instant 6-way win!
Puzzling over bizarre Cosmic situations like this feels a little like doing fairy chess problems. Then again, I have a lot of experience thinking like a Schizoid.
After I posted a message introducing myself and Seattle Cosmic to Spielfrieks, an extremely friendly mailing list for discussing German-style games, Peter Sarrett, editor of The Game Report, had this to say about the "six-player win problem":
From: Peter Sarrett Date: Mon Jun 25, 2001 8:29 pm Subject: Re: [spielfrieks] Hello from Ron Hale-Evans and Seattle Cosmic Ron: In one of your reports, you mention a way to get a six-way Cosmic win by zapping Schizoid. There's another way, which actually happened (albeit in a 4-player game) when I was in college. It requires the Sniveler to have the Sniveler flare and all players to have four bases. Everyone allies against Sniveler and wins for their 5th base, producing a 5-way win. Sniveler then plays the Sniveler Super, which basically forces the winners to let Sniveler share the win too. A marathon all-night Cosmic session ended in such a way in college, with the sun rising. Someone attacked for his 5th base, and another player allied for his. Parasite joined in for HIS 5th base. They won. And I Sniveled to join the victory. We all high-fived each other and laughed about it for days. - Peter
Hey, that's why we keep playing Cosmic, Peter!
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Saturday, 23 June 2001, 7:00 PM at Marty and Ron's in Kent. Come play for fun and FABULOUS PRIZES!
Remember, game nights are first and second Fridays at 7:00 PM, at Dave and Kathy's house in West Seattle, and third and fourth Saturdays at 7:00 PM, at Marty and Ron's apartment in Kent. Please bring a snack or drink to share (cookies, chips, soda, juice, etc.).
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Page last updated 18 June 2001.