Seattle Cosmic Game Night met once again at the house of Tim Higgins on Saturday, 5 October 2002. Present were host Tim Higgins, Ron Hale-Evans (myself), Marty Hale-Evans, Emma and Roger Crew and baby Philip, Kisa Gryphon, Jay Lorch, Michelle Teague, Chad McDaniel, Meredith Hale, Tim Schutz, Steve and Nat Dupree, Jon Tanner, KC and Karen Deitrick, Dave Howell, and Eric Yarnell. I make that 18 gamers, a good turnout, especially for a recent game night.
Game night officially started at 5:00 PM. People dribbled and drabbled in. Marty and I got there around 6:15, and found that people had been playing some light, party-style games such as Apples to Apples at Table 2.
I was in a good mood that day. Marty and I were late because I had been combing the shelves at American Eagle Games in Seattle. An amazing place. Among the wargames and military model kits, you can find some surprising bargains. If you're polite, they may even let you go into the basement, where you can find other hidden goodies. That day I found The Best of Dragon Games, of which there was a huge stack in the basement; the elusive Epaminondas, by Bob Abbott, who is a correspondent of Seattle Cosmic; and Conquest, a sort of Chess variant with terrain and stackable pieces, which I had wanted ever since I saw it in the Games 100 when I was a tiny tad. Amazingly enough, if a game was published in 1985, American Eagle will usually sell you the game at 1985 prices, or even less; the reactions I've gotten from cashiers have told me that they don't always know what's on their shelves. I wish I could point you to their web page, but they don't seem to have one. I can't even find them in 411.com. Oh well, I guess it will have to remain my secret. (They're on Lake City Way if you feel lucky with Google, punk.)
So combine my booty from American Eagle with the fact that I was given the Sauron expansion to The Lord of the Rings as a gift that evening, and "Alpha" Tim Schutz suprised me by building a custom board for my piecepack game, Castle Croquetnole (see below), and I found myself wondering why I was the recipient of all this sudden good karma...
Enough woolgathering. On to the games!
The big news of the evening was that the Sauron expansion to Reiner Knizia's Lord of the Rings game had arrived. This expansion adds a living Sauron player to what was fomrerly a cooperative game; Sauron had been represented by a haphazard die roll before, but now a human being took the die's place, making The Lord of the Rings a "lots of good guys against one bad guy" game, much like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Scotland Yard, both of which are popular at Seattle Cosmic.
If I recall correctly, Tim Higgins said he had never played The Lord of the Rings before, but he was so eager to play Sauron that he went out and bought not only the Sauron expansion, but the original game and its first expansion, Friends & Foes. (I should mention that Tim had played the evil Mr. X in Scotland Yard the week before, and was beat by the Good Guys. Things went a little differently for him in The Lord of the Rings...)
The LotR game started around 6:30 PM. Playing the Fellowship side of the game were Chad McD, Steve D, Nat D, Jay L, and Michelle T.
One of the most interesting things about the new expansion is that instead of a blind die roll, Sauron becomes an All-Seeing Eye, as in the books. He knows where the Fellowship is and can even hear their conversations. I suppose that is actually somewhat unlike the book; part of the tension of the novel stems from the idea that Frodo and Sam are going into Mordor through Sauron's back door, and that Sauron can't conceive of why they would do so; it's his mental blind spot. But the game differs from the novel in many other small ways as well -- such as Sauron winning sometimes -- yet the game manages to capture the novel quite well, so I won't quibble.
Another difference from the book is that Sauron occasionally gets bored or whines, saying "Awww!" or "Hey, that's cheating!" (See photo above.) He can also brag; Mer came in and asked how the game was going, and Tim told her, "They're so scared of me, they're rushing through the game." Tim might not have known this, but The Lord of the Rings is usually very much a "beat-the-clock" style game, with the clock being the Event Counter, which makes each scenario board grow progressively worse.
However, Tim was correct in that an intelligent Sauron is much worse than a dumb die roll. Sam was the first to die, and then the rest of the Fellowship died in a mass slaughter around 8:30 PM. Frodo (Yellow) was purest and safest from Sauron, as you can see in the photo above, but I am sure even he succumbed as darkness closed over Middle Earth...
Meanwhile, at Table 2, Meredith H, Marty H-E, KC and Karen Deitrick, and Tim S played a couple of games of Apples to Apples, a Seattle Cosmic "staple filler". Meredith won the first game and KC won the second. For their victories, they were awarded inflatable ballpoint pens. (Marty remarked these sound like a product out of the game The Big Idea: "It's like a fine writing instrument... that you can blow up with your mouth!".)
Next up, around 7:10 PM, "Alpha" Tim Schutz introduced the table to his latest thrift store treasure, Scrabble Rebus, or as Tim likes to call it, "Scrabble for people who can't spell". Instead of a letter, each tile bears either a word, an English morpheme such as "ing" or "ly", or an icon that can be used to represent multiple words. Here's a photo of the board:
Here are some of the sentences formed on the board in the photo above:
I stopped by to see how the game was going and snap some photos, and Marty showed me an icon of a tin can and an icon of a 2000-pound weight, saying "I can't wait to play these." I thought she was punning even then ("canned weight") but she later played the tiles as "Canton".
Marty remarked later that she thought KC and Karen got a little impatient with the risqué interpretations that Marty and Mer were giving the tiles. Ah, KC and Karen, just wait until the Hale Sisters corrupt you a little further...
Marty won the Scrabble Rebus game.
Meanwhile, at Table 3, Kisa, Jon T, and Roger and Emma Crew played a game of Barbarossa, the Pictionary-like game in which you make and try to guess sculptures made of modelling clay. Don't make your sculptures too easy, and don't make them too hard; you want just the right number of people to guess -- too many correct guesses are just as bad as too few.
The Barbarossa game ran into some difficulty; there was a misunderstanding, and one player gave away too much information about his own sculpture accidentally. When the dust cleared, however, Kisa was the winner, and was given a bunch of "gamer baggies" donated to the Prize Bag by Steve Dupree.
There was a time limit on Barbarossa: it was meant to last only until a second Lord of the Rings game with Sauron could start. Fortunately, the natural end of the Barbarossa game arrived just as people were getting ready to play LotR a second time. Around this time, Eric Yarnell and Dave Howell arrived.
In the second game, Sauron was played by first-time-ever LotR player Jon Tanner. The Fellowship consisted of me (Ron), Jay, Roger, Emma, and Kisa.
It was a slaughter even worse than the first game. We were killed on the first board out of four (Moria), despite the fact that Sauron (Jon) was reading an HTML 4 manual throughout much of the game. ("For God's sake, don't let Sauron make a web page!" said observer Jay.)
We were hoping that either Jay or Kisa, both experienced LotR players with plenty of wins notched into their mallorn-wood walking sticks, would play on the side of the Fellowship. Jay, however, served mostly to give hints to Sauron from another table, and Kisa was a fount of bad advice. No offense to Kisa; he hadn't played this version before, and as I remarked, "When the dice have a nervous system, then you have to worry". It seems even a newbie player can make things hell for the Fellowship when Sauron is a thinking being instead of dice.
At one point, Sam (Kisa) refused to take damage (that's what Sam's there for, dammit), and as a result, Frodo the Ringbearer (yours truly) had to move forward 2, and the Nazgûl moved forward 2 as well. That meant the Nazgûl was 4 spaces closer to the Ringbearer (now just 3 spaces away from me). After a couple of more mistakes, Frodo was on space 6 on the Corruption Line. The Nazgûl came, tagged me, and made it back to space 11, quite close to the end of the line. If he made it all the way to the end, the curtain would fall on Middle Earth. Sauron (Jon) played a Nazgûl +4 spaces card and Merry cancelled; Sauron then played a Nazgûl +3 spaces card and I cancelled it. Nevertheless, Sauron managed to get the Nazgûl back to Mordor shortly, and the Fellowship was crushed in Moria before it had barely begun (in other words, about halfway through the first movie, kids).
Ironically, we had forgotten to use the Ring as our last resort to get off the board, just as we had in the club's very first playing of LoTR back in December 2000. It might not have helped us much, because we were hurting badly, but if we had managed to get off the Moria board, the Nazgûl would have been "reset", and Sauron would have been less likely to win that way.
Oh, well. The game ended at 9:55. Emma, Roger, and baby Philip left at 10:15. It's Springtime for Sauron and Mordor -- so Nazgûl, go into your dance!
Meanwhile, at Table 4, Karen and Chad were playing Puerto Rico with Jay (who occasionally gave evil hints to Sauron, you may remember). I was too busy being slaughtered by the Dark Lord to follow their game, and if you don't know how Puerto Rico plays by now, you ought to be ashamed of yourself, so I won't give details. Here are the scores, however:
Chad ..... 46 Jay ...... 45 Karen .... 41
Chad was awarded "gamer baggies". He left around 10:35.
(Check out the BoardgameGeek page for Puerto Rico if you've been living in a hermitage under a rock on the Orkney Islands lately.)
Meanwhile, at Table 3, Nat and Steve Dupree, Alpha Tim, and Dave Howell were playing Filthy Rich, a game by Richard Garfield (who ought to know). I don't know much about this game so can't give many details, except that Dave Howell (who happens, or happened at one time, to be an employee of Wizards of the Coast, who make the game), won twice.
Meanwhile meanwhile, at Table 2, KC, Eric, Marty, Mer, and Tim H played a game of La Città. It's been a while since I played it (I'm not fond of the hose-your-neighbour strategy necessary in what is nominally a friendly game -- although better players such as Marty disagree this is necessary), and as I said, I was busy getting creamed by Sauron, so I'll just note here that KC won and was awarded a baggie of gamer baggies.
(Check out the BoardgameGeek page for La Città if you want more info about this game.)
To refresh myself after the catastrophe in Middle Earth, I played a game of Castle Croquetnole with Alpha Tim and Steve and Nat Dupree, using the custom board prototype Tim built. This is a game I adapted to the piecepack from Lewis Carroll's game Castle Croquet, after having seen Mark Biggar adapt the regular game to the piecepack in his game Tabletop Croquet.
I hadn't brought the rules that night, not thinking anyone would want to play and not knowing anything about Tim's custom board prototype, which was a lovely surprise, so we played in a rough-and-ready style, adjudicating a number of issues wrongly, but hey. The biggest question was when you are inside one castle and not inside another, an issue which I think is adequately addressed in the latest version of the Castle Croquetnole rules.
In the photo above you can see a closeup of the custom board. Notice that sculptured "gates" and "towers" have replaced the piecepack tiles used in the standard game, which in turn replace the wire wickets of the lawn game. Tim said he was aiming for an "Alice in Wonderland" look. Note that this is a prototype; it has yet to be painted, and the board surface needs to be polished to give it a more Crokinole-like feel. I think Tim did a fantastic job. We hope that eventually custom boards, kits, and plans will be available at Tim's website, tjgames.com.
Instead of suit-side-up coins and corresponding value-side-up coins, we used suit-side-up coins from an ordinary piecepack and matching colours of suit-side-up coins from Steve and Nat's homemade piecepack. Steve and Nat are entomology fans, so their piecepack had insects instead of the usual suits. For the Green player's two coins, we used the Crown coin from a regular Mesomorph piecepack and a Grasshopper coin from Steve and Nat's set, and so on. It worked out well.
Nat managed to invade one castle and get inside the gate of another, Tim and I managed to invade two full castles (I came from way behind with some advice from the other players), but Steve took the prize by invading all three of the other castles. Since he himself had donated the gamer baggies, I could hardly award him those, so I gave him a copy of a rules booklet for New Eleusis donated to the group by Bob Abbott (yes, the same Bob Abbott who invented Epaminondas, which I had bought at American Eagle earlier; check out his website!)
Next up, around 11:30, Alpha Tim, Meredith, Eric, and Steve and Nat
Dupree played a game of Word Snake, using the Alpha Playing Cards game
system (which can be found, along with the Word Snake rules, at Alpha Tim's tjgames.com website.
Eric ....... 215
Tim ........ 179
Nat ........ 159
Mer ........ 131
Steve ...... 104
Eric was, as you see, the winner. A surprisingly low showing for Meredith, who usually does quite well at Word Snake. Eric, do I owe you a prize?
(Check out the BoardgameGeek page for Doge if you want more info about this game.)
Around this time, things were winding down. Tim H and Marty settled into Table 2 for a couple of games of Schotten-Totten. Marty won the first game of feudin' Scots, but her win was contested when Tim discovered his set was missing cards. The second game was cancelled partway through for the same reason.
After this last game of the evening, everyone who remained went home around 12:30 AM.
Thanks to Marty Hale-Evans for a quick edit and some good jokes.
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Remember, Seattle Cosmic Game Night occurs every weekend, in one of four locations: Kent, Mill Creek, South Park, or West Seattle. Come play for fun and FABULOUS PRIZES! Email Ron Hale-Evans for a full schedule and directions. If you come, please bring a snack or drink to share (cookies, chips, soda, juice, etc.).
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Page last updated 2002-10-26.