Seattle Cosmic Game Night

(Saturday, 30 March 2002)

Cake, Candles, and Cosmic

by Ron Hale-Evans

Wow, this is the first newsletter in a long time. Perhaps our remote descendants won't be able to tell the difference, but those of you who are following these newsletters in real time realise that I haven't posted a newsletter since early December of last year. However Sisyphean (or Augean) a task, I hope to fill in all the old newsletters, eventually. My notes for old game nights currently fill two notebooks and a couple of sheafs of paper, and there are hundreds of photos that have never been published. The question is, when I get around to all that, will anyone still care, or even speak English? Perhaps the session reports will have nostalgic value, or perhaps they will merely reveal the dimensions of my obsessions.

All this is to say Seattle Cosmic met again on 30 March 2002 for another fun game night, and three birthdays. Present were hosts for the evening Tim Higgins and Antonio Lopez, your humble scribe Ron Hale-Evans, Marty Hale-Evans, Meredith Wilson, Mark Purtill, Tim Schutz, Eric Yarnell, Mark Haggerty, Kisa Gryphon, Jay Lorch, and Chad McDaniel. Recent weeks have seen an influx of new faces, and this game night was no exception; New Guys included Tracy Furutani, Stephen Dupree, John Tanner, Gorm Nykreim, and Michael Orford, for a total of 17 people, a number we seem to be unable to exceed.

Game nights start at 7:00 PM customarily, but Tim has been opening his house at 5:00 PM lately when Seattle Cosmic meets there. Marty, Mer, and I didn't make it until 6:00, and many other people didn't make it until the official start time of 7:00 or later. It was a busy night, with many people coming and going.

Medieval Merchant

Earlybirds plot and ponder

Before Marty, Mer, and I arrived, Tim Higgins, Antonio, Chad, Gorm, and Mark Haggerty started a game of Medieval Merchant at Table 1.

One of the problems with there being so many people at game night (from the perspective of writing newsletters, anyway) is that I only get to play a fraction of the games that hit the tables, and so can only describe some games by hearsay. (Also, the newsletters take a long time to write!) In this case all I really know about the game is that it's a sort of medieval train game, and that Gorm won it. Meanwhile check out BoardgameGeek for details on the game.

Dragon's Gold

Let's make a really fast deal

Bruno Faidutti's game Dragon's Gold is rapidly becoming a favourite at Seattle Cosmic. Players send knights, wizards, etc. off to fight dragons, and all players who have a hand in defeating the dragons get to split the treasure the dragon was guarding. But the players involved in the split must make a deal agreeable to all of them before the timer runs out, or else no one gets the treasure. Different combinations of jewels and precious metals are worth different amounts (it feels a bit like Sid Sackson's game Bazaar in that respect, crossed with deal-making in the style of Cosmic Encounter). Therefore, each player has different private goals depending on what treasure they already have and what they are likely to get. The negotiations can be fierce.

Before our little caravan arrived, Kisa, Eric, and Jay were playing Dragon's Gold at Table 2. Scores were as follows:

Eric ..... 66
Kisa ..... 54
Jay ...... 52

Eric received a glow-in-the-dark skull for his victory over the dragons.


With Medieval Merchant going on at Table 1, and Dragon's Gold going on at Table 2, Marty and Mer and I decided we'd play a three-way game of Scrutineyes at Table 3. Scrutineyes is a game in which players receive large, complicated illustrations, and try to name all the features of the picture that match a specific criterion, such as the letter 'B'. For the 'B' picture you might spot boats, beer kegs, a brush, and so on. The kicker is that when the timer goes off, you swap pictures with the other players, and only objects that no one else has named count towards your score. Marty is good at this game (which is why I gave it to her for her birthday), Mer is spectacularly good, and I am spectacularly bad. Scores were as follows:

Meredith ... 81
Marty ...... 57
Ron ........ 21

Well, I'm not known for being an observant person, to say the least. Mer was awarded a plastic skull and some anime angel temporary tattoos for her powers of observation.


Jay is Master of his domain

Meanwhile, at Table 2, a Zendo game had started up, with Eric, Jay, Mark Purtill, Michael, and Kisa. Zendo is also a long-time Seattle Cosmic favourite. It's an inductive logic game played with Icehouse pieces. The Master lays out patterns of Icehouse pieces and the Students attempt to guess the rule behind them. Usually Kisa is the Master, but this time Jay was the Master and Kisa was a Student. Surprising no one, Kisa is a good Student as well as a good Master, and won the game, for which he was awarded more anime tattoos.

By the way, right about then I learned it is Newish Guy Mark Haggerty who has been bringing all the fresh sushi. The bar has been raised for snacks, people! I got my act together this time and baked some brownies (which Kisa was very enthusiastic about), so I don't feel quite as shamefaced as if I'd just brought a bag of chips as usual...

Cosmic Encounter

The beginning of the Cosmic game that wouldn't end

It was time once again for our fortnightly game of Cosmic Encounter. This session we had a full complement of six players. We actually had to turn people away. We planned a second game for people who couldn't make the first one, but the one game we played turned out to last over three hours. Sorry, guys.

Here was the starting lineup:

Kisa ....... Duelist-Knot
Ron ........ Pacifist-Macron
Steve ...... Diplomat-Ghost
John T ..... Mirror-Filch
Tim S ...... Ventriloquist-Equalizer
Michael .... Clone-Mind

Several people got up to four out of the required five foreign bases pretty quickly (including me), although Kisa was in a tough position and actually had zero bases at that point.

Part of the reason the game took so long was that the powers were so finely balanced. Every time someone would attempt to gain a fifth bases, the other players would knock him down again. Situation in point: I had four bases and so did Tim Schutz. As Ventriloquist, he made me his bitch, er, dummy and forced me to say I would only take him as ally. Then Kisa called in a debt as the Knot, and Tim had to ally on his side. Kisa played all kinds of cards, including a Kicker, so I decided I was going to lose and played an 11 instead of my trusty 17 Attack. It turned out that Kisa had made a math error and played a 0 (zero) Kicker and an 11 Attack, so that he had 0x11 = 0 points of Attack card on his side. If I had actually played my 17, I would have beat him for a solo win, but alas, the tokens on his side outweighed my tokens plus my Attack card.

Some people think Pacifist is a weak power, but I was actually quite happy with it. Unfortunately for me, Steve drew the Coup d'Etat Edict (an Internet Edict that lets you swap two powers on the table), and swapped my Pacifist and Kisa's Knot. Now all Kisa's debts of honor for Knot were for naught, and I had to start over. Gotta remove that Coup d'Etat Edict from the deck; it's almost as annoying as the one that makes you shuffle and deal out the entire deck, and it always seems to get played on me...

Steve was also the Diplomat, of course, and every time someone came close again to getting a fifth base (for example, me), Tim would Ventriloquise him into cutting a three-way deal with Steve.

Later, I played the Wild Equalizer Flare, which, although worded somewhat ambiguously, seemed to let me add as many tokens of my own to my side as my opponent had on his side. Since my Macron tokens were worth four ordinary tokens, this was quite helpful. I boosted my side up to 39 against Steve (who could not use his Diplomat power as a main player to wriggle into a three-way deal), but the other players managed to add enough Reinforcements to bring his side up to 39 as well. As defender, he won the tie, and the game rolled on...

During another challenge, Tim got confused and Ventriloquised Steve instead of me even though I had four bases and was going for the win. Steve played a War card, and my forces were crushed.

Kisa and John both played Compromises on one of their challenges, aiming for a base-for-a-base deal that would let them both win but Tim Ventriloquised John and negated the deal; instead, they each swapped five cards.

Michael (left) slips the dagger in

Michael, fairly new to Cosmic, sneakily kept dealing for foreign bases with his Wild Diplomat Flare. Finally I got nervous and Flare-Zapped him after his fourth base. Kisa then won a Warp Challenge against Steve for his fifth base. Everyone was sure he had won, but Michael revealed that he had been saving a Wild Plant Flare, which let him usurp Kisa's place. I had another Flare Zap, but opted not to play it against Michael; although Kisa had probably worked hardest for his five bases, all the way up from zero when most other people had four, Michael had been so quiet and sneaky that I admired his gumption. Anyway, it was either Kisa or Michael -- with a Flare Zap in my hand I was forced to play kingmaker one way or another. Michael won a copy of Robert Abbott's rule booklet Auction 2002 and New Eleusis for his stealth and skill.

Thus ended one of the longest Cosmic games in recent memory. Kisa said, "It was one of the more interesting games I've played", primarily because our powers were so balanced. Everyone but Tim had four bases at the end of the game (excepting Kisa too, who had five).


Trading, trading, over the bounding waves

Medici hit the Seattle Cosmic tables (Table 3, to be exact) for the first time in a couple of years. Rather than describe it again, I'll refer you to the June 2000 newsletter in which it appeared.

Scores were as follows:

Mark P ....... 96
Jay .......... 91
Tracy ........ 68
Marty ........ 64
Mer .......... 55
Eric ......... 29

A Birthday Interlude

Marty and Tim blow!

At this point we all gathered while a cake was brought out for Marty, Tim, and the absent Dave Adams. Marty's birthday was 30 March -- game night -- and Tim and Dave had their birthdays on the 29th. Meredith baked them all a tasty cake, and after the candles were lit with Gorm's pocket acetylene torch (I'm not kidding), Marty and Tim blew out the candles. Then cake was had by all, or most.

Happy birthday, Marty, Tim, and Dave!


Jay, Mer, and Tim drive home their Pictionary superiority so that even Antonio is convinced.

Afterwards, a couple of rousing games of Pictionary were played at Table 1 by a team containing Tim Higgins, Jay, and Mer, and a team containing Marty, Chad, and Antonio. If you're one of the eleven people in this country who have not played Pictionary, I'll just say that it is like Charades, except instead of miming, you draw little pictures to get your idea across. (You've played Charades, right?)

Tim, Jay, and Mer spanked Marty, Chad, and Antonio. Twice. ("And were none too polite about it", says Marty.)


Meanwhile, at Table 3, Mark Purtill, Tracy, and Eric played Reiner Knizia's game Samurai twice. I'm a little rusty on this game (haven't played it since October 2001, and haven't written that newsletter yet), so I'll just say it's a "majority placing game" (like, for example, El Grande) with a few Knizia twists.

Tracy won one game, and Mark won the other.

Zoff im Zoo (Frank's Zoo)

What can I say about this game? It's become a Seattle Cosmic staple -- the game you pull out when nothing else tastes good. And yet I've never described it before! I'll just say that it's a game by Doris & Frank, and that players try to take high-scoring tricks by playing animal cards. "Zoff im Zoo" means "Trouble in the Zoo" -- the animals are loose and they're all gobbling one another up, trampling on each other, and generally behaving like brutes. Doris and Frank weave a complex ecosystem -- little fish are eaten by big fish, which are eaten by crocodiles, which can be squashed by elephants. Almost everybody can eat the mice, but the mice can scare the elephants, at the nominal top of the food chain. The Chameleon is a Joker and can be played as any other animal, while a mosquito can be played as an elephant because of the German saying "to make an elephant out of a mosquito" (English equivalent: "to make a mountain out of molehill"). And round and round it goes. But once you get used to the quirky, dare I say "organic" Doris & Frank rules, play is really fast and fun. Scores in this particular Bungle in the Jungle were as follows:

Mark P ....... 23
Eric ......... 19
Tim H ........ 19
Tracy ........ 14
Chad ......... 13
Mer ........... 9
Marty ......... 5

Sorceror's Chamber (piecepack)

Sorceror Tim explains his game

Next up at Table 2, John Tanner, Kisa, Tim Schutz, and I playtested Tim's new piecepack game called Sorceror's Chamber. It uses Tim's new printable expansion for the piecepack game system called piecepack pyramids. The mechanics are somewhat like Expedition (see below) -- you are moving around and picking up items, which you can then spend to move around and pick up more objects, which... Unfortunately for me, while the mechanics are Expedition-like, the feel of the game is similar to RoboRally. I am definitely not a fan of RoboRally, and was the first sorceror to be zapped out of the Sorceror's Chamber. (Ouch!) Next eliminated was John Tanner, and then it was down to Kisa and Tim. Kisa is a RoboRally expert, and actually managed to beat Tim at his own game.

Note that in the close-up photo above, you can see Tim's other enhancement of his piecepack. He drilled tiny holes in the centers of his tiles, so that he could push small nails through them and tack them to a mounted piece of corkboard. Ingenious...


Marty's reach extends to sub-Saharan Africa

At this point several people left. I had been relaxing and reading Greg Egan's latest novel, Schild's Ladder after being eliminated in Sorceror's Chamber. The remaining people (Tim Higgins, Marty, Eric, Michael, Steve, and Meredith) joined together for a game of Expedition, a challenging semi-filler that often seems to come out toward the end of a Seattle Cosmic evening. Players are trying to steer three different archeological expeditions to sites of their choice. It is a strongly tactical game; although you can never be sure where the expeditions will be at the beginning of your turn, with a few deft moves you can visit a few of your own sites and scoop up points.

Scores were as follows:

Steve ....... 15
Michael ..... 14
Tim H ....... 13
Marty ....... 13
Eric ........ 13
Meredith ..... 9

As you can see, Steve won. He walked around afterwards muttering about "the incredible irony of it all", but declined to elaborate.


Steve left, so did Eric, and Michael and I got engrossed in conversation, so only Tim Higgins, Antonio, Marty, and Meredith were available for a game. Four people -- a perfect number for Hearts. Although Marty was sleepy and groggy (she says), she is powerless against the allure of Hearts, so Tim was able to tempt her into a game. Tim won, but Antonio claimed that in a sense he did, because he scored the most points...

After that, everyone went home around 2:30 in the morning, except the people whose home it was.

Games played or discussed this week:

The Center for Ludic Synergy and Seattle Cosmic Game Night are now associates of Funagain Games. This means that 5% of your purchase there goes toward supporting us if you buy games there via the following links or the Funagain logo at the bottom of the page.

Even if you don't want to buy the games, the Funagain pages often contain lengthy, useful game reviews.


Saturday, 6 April 2002, 7:00 PM in Kent. Come play for fun and FABULOUS PRIZES!

Remember, Seattle Cosmic Game Night occurs every weekend, in one of three locations: West Seattle, Mill Creek, or Kent. Email Ron Hale-Evans for a full schedule. If you come, please bring a snack or drink to share (cookies, chips, soda, juice, etc.).

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Page last updated 2002-04-05.