Seattle Cosmic met again at Marty and Ron's in Kent on 30 November. Game "night" started at 1:00 PM. Present at some point or other were Ron Hale-Evans (that's me), Marty Hale-Evans, Meredith Hale, Kisa Gryphon, Steve Dupree, Nat Dupree, Greg Stripes, Tim Higgins, Jay Lorch, Mark Haggerty, and two of Mark's friends, Meryl Douglas (who had attended once before) and a new player, Annette (whose last name I don't know, but who comes from Switzerland and is studying at the University of Washington). That's a total of 12 people, a good turnout for our house, especially for a holiday weekend -- even more than showed up the previous week at Tim Higgins's house, which is unusual.
As mentioned, we started at 1:00 PM, primarily at Kisa's suggestion, so we could play a long game of Dune, with both game expansions. However, by 1:30 the only people present besides me and Marty were Kisa and Meredith, and it was clear no one else was going to show for quite a while. In future, I would prefer to start so early in the day only if we are sure we have enough players for a long game; 10 to 12 hours of people dropping in and out at random is a bit exhausting.
While we were waiting for others to show up, we four amused ourselves by chatting and by checking out Mer's latest thrift store acquisition, the Barney Miller Game, which she bought primarily for camp value.
Around 1:45 we playtested a game Marty and I had designed for the Simultaneous Movement game design contest. Tim Schutz had already reminded us of something we had forgotten -- that the game had to be designed for two players -- but we had a four-player version ready to test, and planned to strip it down to a two-player version based on playtesting. Unfortunately, the game as designed proved to be unbalanced and broken, and needed a lot more work to be ready for the contest.
Next up, around 2:15, I went off to read and spend some time with the dogs, and Marty, Mer, and Kisa started a game of Wyatt Earp, one of the games in the Mystery Rummy series, but with a Western theme. Meredith won the game (she's a Rummy fiend) and was awarded a "Big Money" prize (a yoyo shaped like a U.S. coin and a notepad shaped like a $100 bill.)
Around 3:20, Greg Stripes showed up, and Greg, Mer, Kisa, and I started a game of Perudo (Marty sat out). This was the Perudo-branded game, as distinct from the folk game Perudo or the many other proprietary versions of this game sold under different titles: Liar's Dice, Bluff, Call My Bluff, etc.
Because there are so many variants of this game, we had trouble agreeing on the rules we were going to use, and changed them part of the way through (we initially said that the person who "called" on the last round could bid first, then we decided it was more fair if the winner bid first). I found this frustrating, but not for long, as I was first out of the game, followed by Kisa, then Greg. At the end, only Meredith remained, with an amazing three dice left. For her victory, she was awarded a toy fireman figure. (Pttthpt. I challenge Meredith to a version of this game wherein the rules are more like Liar's Dice and less like Nomic or Fizzbin.)
Steve and Nat Dupree arrived around 4:00 PM, and Steve, Nat, Greg, Kisa, and I sat down to a game of Klunker. Rather than re-describe the game, let me refer you to the account of the game in last week's newsletter.
Greg didn't like the game. He said, "There's not much to it," and that he got hosed on the first round. The rest of us enjoyed it, however. Kisa won again, Nat did significantly worse, and I did significantly better:
Kisa ....... 16 Ron ........ 12 Steve ...... 9 Nat ........ 8 Greg ....... 6
Kisa was awarded a pocket-sized Don't Break the Ice game.
Meanwhile, around 4:05, Marty was back in action, and Mer challenged her to a game of Facts in Five. The two sisters have a fierce rivalry in the game; Marty is the long-time champion, but Meredith can often put up a good fight. The rest of us have given up on this "Scattergories on Steroids"; playing Marty and Mer at Facts in Five is like trying to play John Braley at Chess or Jay Lorch at Puerto Rico.
The game consists of five 5-minute rounds. (Hail Eris!) However, their game lasted about an hour and a half because of interruptions and because they couldn't figure out how to use my G8 Game Timer (too many programmable options). The game ended around 5:35, with Marty beating Meredith, 919 to 852. (These scores should frighten you.)
Around this point I started to feel a little queasy, so ate some candied ginger, drank a lot of water, and retired to my room again. I was also feeling rather stuffed up. Nat had a chronic cough herself, and Chad McDaniel called at the last minute to say he couldn't make it because he was sick. Ah, the holiday season was upon us at last!
After Table 1 finished Klunker and I bowed out, Greg, Steve, Nat, and Kisa played Steve's latest thrift store find, Arkansas Bluff. This is a really obscure game -- it's not in the BoardgameGeek database at present, and I haven't found any other information on it -- but the four players seemed to have a good time. Final scores were as follows:
Kisa ....... 490 Steve ...... 300 Greg ....... 230 Nat ........ 180
At least everybody made it into three figures! Kisa was awarded some Spiderman stickers, which I think he planned to share with his daughter Alexandra.
During the Arkansas Bluff game, we got a call from Mark Haggerty, who hadn't visited in a while, saying he was coming over and bringing some friends with him.
Next up, the same four players at Table 1 started a game of Flying Carpet around 5:00. I know as much about this game as I do about Arkansas Bluff, except that it's a race game with a sort of Arabian Nights theme. Here's some info on it from BoardgameGeek. Steve Dupree won the game around 5:40 and was awarded a little metal race car (like a Matchbox car). Yes, we have all kinds of odds and ends in the prize bag, mostly ends...
Tim Higgins showed up around 5:30, and he, Greg, Marty, and I started the latest game in the Settlers of Catan franchise, Abenteuer Menschheit, around 5:45. This game (I'll call it "AM" for short) is similar to Settlers in many ways, except that (1) it has a fixed board instead of a random configuration of board hexes, (2) your tokens move around the board instead of staying put, and (3) it is set in humankind's actual nomadic prehistory (in which Africa gradually turns into a desert) instead of some Catanian neverwhen. (The name means something like "Mankind's Adventure".) Just the fact that you could move pieces around the board made me like this game a lot more than the usual Catan games. As Marty put it later on the mailing list,
I liked it a great deal. Of course, I'm prone to liking "empire building" games in general, but I thought it was very interesting and well-balanced either way. Lots of possible choices, lots of different strategies to choose from. Definitely has a flavor of Settlers, but it ends up being a rather different game, much less static, because of the game requirements and the effects that force you to move out of the areas you start in. So you have a similar task in building a set of victory points, but you have to think of a moving strategy to do it, rather than just setting it up.... I think it's one of my favorite recent new games.
As usual with Settlers games, I did not expect to win, and I did not. To win, you must acquire 10 victory points. Two-thirds of the way through the game, Marty leapt into the lead with seven points, then Tim got five and "stole" two points from Greg. Greg observed it was a "two-horse race" at that point. In the end, the scores were as follows:
Tim ....... 10 Marty ..... 9 Ron ....... 5 Greg ...... 4
Marty later told me it was down to luck; if she had gotten the right dice roll on any of her three previous turns, she would have drawn the right card and won. I tactlessly remarked that I had fulfilled my private victory condition: not coming in dead last. Tim was awarded a package of "gamer baggies" for his victory, which he promptly used to put away his copy of AM, which was brand new.
By the way, thanks to new player Annette, who is a native German speaker, we learned that the publicly-available English rules for AM were wrong: you do take a card when you move the Neanderthal or the Predator (this game's equivalents to the Robber). We played it out that you didn't take a card, however, so as not to change the rules halfway through the game. (Ahem. See remarks on Perudo, above.)
Around the same time as we started AM, Mer, Kisa, Nat, and Steve started a game of Oh Hell, the public-domain card game upon which so many popular proprietary card games, such as Rage and Wizard, are based.
Steve Dupree won this game and was awarded a little fold-up military tank. Steve and Nat then left, just as Jay Lorch was arriving, around 6:20.
Meredith had never played Torres before, so she, Kisa, and Jay started a game of it. If you don't have some idea of how Torres is played, I feel bitter pity for you; see a previous newsletter for a clue. I'll just report the scores here:
Jay ....... 361 Kisa ...... 297 Mer ....... 255
Jay was awarded a "slingfrog", a rubber frog you can snap at people the way you used to shoot rubber bands at your teacher in elementary school. The game ended around 7:50, and Mer and Kisa left around 8:15.
By this time, Mark, Meryl, and Annette had arrived. Since no one else was free, the three of them started a game of Carcassonne. I won't describe this game, either; see remarks above about bitter pity, etc. Clue available here. Mark, the more experienced gamer, won the game and was awarded a handful of eye poppers.
Next up, the same three players started a game of Medici. I don't feel the aforementioned bitter pity if you don't know this game, but I will refer you to the description of the game from last week's newsletter nevertheless.
Mark won again and was awarded a thematic "Big Money" prize.
After AM, Tim, Marty, Greg, Jay, and I started a game of Sleuth. This is a classic deduction game by Sid Sackson that we have played only once before at Seattle Cosmic. One good way to think of it is as Clue without all the pointless rolling the dice and moving around the board. Everyone is dealt a hand of "jewel cards", each of which depicts a jewel with three characteristics: color (red, green, blue, or yellow), stone (diamond, opal, or pearl), and setting (solitaire, pair, or cluster). One card from the jewel deck is set aside; this represents the "stolen jewels", and the object is to determine its characteristics. Players are also dealt question cards that let them ask another player, for instance, how many green cards he has, or make someone display all of her diamond solitaires.
Tim, who was really on his game that night, deduced the stolen jewels well ahead of anyone else (to judge from post-game chatter, and despite the fact that he was asked a plurality if not a majority of the questions in the game -- this is a significant disadvantage, because you only learn something when someone else is questioned). The stolen jewels were the fabulous Yellow Opal Pair! Good going, Detective Tim!
Tim left after Sleuth, around 9:30 PM, before he could be awarded a prize. There's not much left we can give Tim either...
Mark, Meryl, and Annette were still playing Medici, so Jay, Greg, Marty, and I filled in with another Sackson classic, Can't Stop. As I've often remarked (too often, probably), if Can't Stop had been invented 100 or 200 years ago, it would today be a classic "push your luck" game in every casino, just like Blackjack or Craps. But then I probably wouldn't play it, because I never gamble, so I guess I'm lucky it was invented in the late 20th century.
I occasionally win Can't Stop, but I play too conservatively, and players like Marty and Meredith leapfrog ahead. Tonight, Marty won the game, with Greg close behind.
By this time, Mark, Meryl, and Annette had finished Medici, and Annette was browsing our game shelves. Coming as she did from Switzerland, she was curious why so many of the games we were playing were German in origin. Switzerland imports a fair number of German games, she said, but she had always thought that that was just because they were in the same language. What were we, a group of fairly monolingual English speakers on another continent, doing playing German games? We explained to her that Germany is just where a lot of the good games come from (while the U.S. tends to manufacture 200 branded versions of Monopoly) -- but we couldn't explain why that was. (Personally, I think it has something to do with the institution of the Spiel des Jahres.)
Now it was Marty's turn to bow out because she was feeling icky. She went off to the bedroom while Jay, Annette, Meryl, Greg, Mark, and I started a game of Zendo, a Seattle Cosmic staple in which players must use inductive logic to determine the construction rule behind "koans", or configurations of coloured plastic pyramids from an Icehouse set. We played the variant in which you can spend two guessing stones to guess on someone else's turn.
While I play Can't Stop conservatively, in Zendo I frequently leap to conclusions, seeing patterns where there aren't any, and recklessly squandering my guessing stones. Not too much different from my everyday life, really...
Jay was the first Master. His rule was A koan must have an even number of red pyramids. Mark, an experienced Zendo player, guessed it.
Master Mark's rule was All pyramids in the koan must touch at least one other pyramid. Greg, new to the game but a sharp cookie (um, ouch!) guessed that one.
Master Greg's rule was There must be a yellow pyramid in the koan smaller than some other pyramid in the koan. This turn took a while, as I recall; we were speculating on the handedness of the koans before the end. Meryl got it, though.
We were all pretty tired by this point (11:30), but we agreed to play one more round. Master Meryl's rule was There must be an even number of pyramids of each size. I guessed that one, and everyone went home around 11:50 PM.
So I guessed the last koan but didn't have a chance to pose one of my own and have it guessed in turn. I guess that makes me...
See you soon, peoples.
Thanks again go to Marty for an edit pass on the newsletter, helping select the photos, and general comments. Thanks to Tim Higgins for snapping the photo of the AM board.
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Friday, 6 December 2002, 7:00 PM in West Seattle. Come play for fun and FABULOUS PRIZES!
Remember, Seattle Cosmic Game Night occurs every weekend, in one of four locations: Kent, Mill Creek, South Park, or West Seattle. 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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