Seattle Cosmic Game Night, Saturday, 28 December 2002

The Last Game Night of the Last Palindromic Year of Our Natural Lives

Present at the last official Seattle Cosmic Game Night of 2002 were Ron_Hale-Evans?, Kisa_Griffin?, ChadUrsoMcDaniel, Steve_Dupree? and Nat Dupree, Alex_Rockwell?, Marty_Hale-Evans?, Meredith Hale, Eric_Yarnell,_ND?, Dave Howell, John_Braley?, Mark Haggerty, and Tim Schutz, for a total of 13 people -- quite a good turnout for a holiday game night. We met at Ron and Marty's apartment in Kent, filling in for Tim Higgins, who couldn't host this week. It was supposed to be a CosmicNight, meaning we were scheduled to play Cosmic_Encounter?, but most people were more in the mood for lighter games.

Unless otherwise specified, the prizes awarded were printed copies of Countermoves Magazine.

Where's Bob's Hat?

First up, Alex, Kisa, Nat, and Ron played a game of Where's_Bob's_Hat??. When Marty and Mer arrived soon after we started, Marty remarked, "I hope this will cause less bloodshed than last time." Well, it was a long game (about two hours), and while it was reportedly less acrimonious than the recent game Marty was alluding to, there was general slaughter as Alex spanked us all with a score more than five times higher than his closest competitor.

(L) Clockwise from left: Kisa, Nat, and Ron attempt to escape the Evil Hat (R).

My score plummeted right away; I was down to -28 by the third or fourth turn, and I dropped a lot further. I eventually managed to reverse my downward trend by simply bidding for the fewest tricks each hand and playing the game like Hearts. I had hoped to break 0 by the time Alex broke into three digits, but it was not to be for either of us. Final scores were as follows:


Alex R 89
Nat D 17
Ron H-E -1
Kisa G -25


Definitely my kind of game. ;) Similar to Wizard / Oh Hell, but with much more structure. I guess I got revenge on Kisa for Mer... though at the start of the game I was in the hole and Kisa had a sizable lead. Go figure. ;)


Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation

Chad McDaniel and Steve Dupree played two games of Lord_of_the_Rings:_The_Confrontation?, alternating sides, as recommended in the rules. Steve won both games, and was awarded a throw tube (sort of like a frisbee) for his victory.


I was Evil first and Good second. In the first game, Chad tried an aggressive strategy of leading with Frodo. With Frodo on the front lines, it doesn't take long before he meets an evil character stronger than "1" and gets slaughtered. As Good, I got lucky with a strategy of matching my characters to the Evil characters they are specifically targeted at. That is, Gimli with the Orcs and Legolas with the Flying Nazg\xFBl. Eventually Chad ran out of bad guys and his last piece was only 1 square from The Shire and behind Frodo. The game was officially won because he wouldn't have been able to move any of his pieces after two turns.



I didn't play in the Acquire game, so I don't have much to say about it. Perhaps one or more of the four players will replace this lame remark with their own witty commentary. --Ron_Hale-Evans?

Clockwise from upper left: Dave Howell plots corporate world domination, while Steve Dupree is puzzled as Eric Yarnell and Chad McDaniel attempt to kiss from four feet apart.


Chad McD? $41,500
Steve D $38,000
Dave H $29,900
Eric Y $28,800

Facts In Five

Meredith and Marty engaged in the sibling rivalry of what is shaping up to be their semi-weekly Facts_in_Five? game. Facts In Five is an excellent pick-up game if two people are caught between games, because it can be stopped midway if another game forms, which is what happened here; when Mer and Marty are caught between games, FiF? is almost always what comes out. Aside from the trivia challenge and strategy, at least some of the answers are always good for a giggle.

The setting was non-optimum - very noisy for trying to think, and physically cramped for writing - but Meredith won fair and square. Mer remarked that it was only the third time she had ever beaten Marty at this game, although few other people have ever beaten Marty, so this is an achievement of sorts. Most Mer vs. Marty games these days result in relatively close scores (as in this case), and that's the way they like it - neither of them can lord it too much about winning that way.

-- Marty_Hale-Evans?

Marty Hale-Evans (L) and Meredith Hale (R) give Facts_in_Five? the thumbs-up. I guess that means it won't be put to death in the Coliseum.


Mer H 1058
Marty H-E 1014


Tim Schutz brought his copy of the seminal light tactical game Raj? with him, and four of the rest of us played it with him around 7:40. (We have played this before at Seattle Cosmic as Beat_the_Buzzard?, but Raj? has nicer components. Tim says he found the game mint in shrink for 99 cents at the thrift store down the street from our apartment, the fink!)

Kisa won the game by a fair margin. He seems to do well at games that require intuition and shrewd anticipation of other players' moves; I recall that he cleaned up at Heimlich_&_Co.? during Spy Night. Alex came in last, a reversal of their positions in the earlier Where's_Bob's_Hat?? game.


Kisa G 22
Nat D 15
Tim S 7
Ron H-E 3
Alex R -7


I suppose I deserved that after the Where's_Bob's_Hat?? game. ;)


Take It Easy

Ten minutes later (7:50) we started a game of Take_It_Easy?. (Everybody say it: "It's Bingo with strategy!") This game is close to a 10 on my personal rating scale, and I am always glad to take it out.

I don't mind being Caller either, so I was the Caller for this game. I also won. (Don't mutter under your breath. It's impolite.)

Tim Schutz (L) and Kisa_Griffin? (R) simultaneously puzzle over their simultaneous Take_It_Easy? puzzles, Kisa utilizing both the power of ESP and the strange wires entering his right ear.


Ron H-E 163
Tim S 154
Alex R 148
Kisa G 145
Nat D 136


An interesting thing in this game was that Kisa and I did not diverge on our placements until the seventh piece... we both somehow came up with the same position for our pieces every time until then. On piece 7, there was a need for us to block off one of our lines, and we chose differently at that point. I was kind of surprised that we had diverged, as I had seen no other decent spot other than what I picked, but he came up with an ingenious placement which also worked. There were tradeoffs to both our choices. While I at first thought that placing your initial couple pieces in the same spot as another player would mean that the two of you would be identical unless someone messed up and did something stupid, I found that wasn't the case. There would come choices with tradeoffs to be made, and you had to guess which was the correct course of action.

Further, another good thing about this game is that the outcome was in doubt until the very end. On the final turn, Ron got the piece he needed for the win, while I and a couple others were desperately in need of another 7, for a big score, which never materialized. A great game!


Yes, Take_It_Easy? is largely about timing and calculated risks. It's similar in this way to Schotten-Totten? and Lost_Cities?; see your comment on Schotten-Totten below.


Alien City

Around the same time (7:50), John Braley and Mark Haggerty started the piecepack/Icehouse game AlienCity. Mark initially said he didn't like it, claiming that there was something wrong with the strategy required, but he didn't know what it was (sort of an odd remark, if you think about it). He did admit the scoring was unique and interesting, and that the strategy grew out of the scoring...

The game lasted most of the evening. Halfway through, Mark remarked that he thought he and John were doing equally well. I said, "Don't worry; he'll pull out ahead with a big handful of points at the end", and he did.

Lately John has been creating software to play AlienCity in the ActiveWorlds virtual environment, and has been adding material to our Wiki about it. Marty remarked the next day, "Never play John at a game he's totally fascinated by."

Mark Haggerty (L) and John Braley (R) build an AlienCity.


John B 106
Mark H 48



Alex was looking for someone to teach him Schotten-Totten?, and since it's one of her favorites, Marty accepted the challenge. This game is simple to teach, but surprisingly deep strategically, so the game was quick even though there was explanation of rules involved (and Alex, no doubt hardened by the pace of online game playing, played a speed game). Although Marty won, the game was fairly close, and Alex enjoyed it and pronounced S-T a cool game.

-- Marty_Hale-Evans?

Yes, a very cool game. ;) It felt to me like an improved version of Lost_Cities? (also by Knizia). It has the same "you don't want to play cards yet, because you don't know what you are going to get, but you must, so you have to take a calculated risk" element. I like to play rounds of Lost Cities in 90 seconds online, so playing this quickly was not difficult. ;)


See my second comment on Take It Easy above.


Way Out West

Around this point (8:30), Nat and Steve went home, and Kisa, Chad, Alex, Tim S, and I started a game of Way_Out_West?. This is an odd chicken: a sort of abstract wargame with a Western theme. I must confess that these comments are somewhat biased, because the game was much too grognard-y for my tastes (it's published by Warfrog Games): wargames just aren't my thing.

The complicated rules took half an hour to explain, and we still got several rules wrong. The game itself lasted about two hours, until 11:10. Fortunately, it couldn't last forever, because there's a turn counter on the board, and the game is limited to 12 turns (eight turns when there are five players, as with our game).

There's a lot of combat and dice-rolling in this game. Alex thought it was "brutal", and asked Kisa, "How do you keep from getting killed, apart from rolling really well?"

Kisa said, "Apart from rolling really well? Roll really well."

The Way_Out_West? board

Kisa won in a runaway victory. He said his strategy was to establish himself in a couple of cities on the board and stay there. I also note that the cities he chose were the higher-scoring ones near the top of the board, and several people remarked on the utility of owning Jails in cities you want to keep.


Kisa G 42
Alex R 27
Tim S 12
Chad McD? 11
Ron H-E 7


Was it mentioned enough that rolling well was important? This game is definitely a wargame, and we weren't treating it as such at the start. We were thinking of it as a type of building game, and people were spending all their money building stuff like it was Puerto Rico or something. When Kisa built up a strong group of gunfighters in one city, backed up by the power of the Sheriff (control of the Jail), and took over the whole city (which would provide both income and a bunch of VPs at the end), we realized what this game was about, and it wasn't about building! At least not in an area you hadn't ALREADY built up militarily in. The scoring in this game tends to be lopsided, I think, with some players ending up with a lot, and others very little, depending on who won the battles / focused on the conquest aspect. If you lose the battles (mainly you need to outnumber people, and then not roll bad), then they start taking over ALL your stuff, and you end up with nothing on the board, and thus no income, and thus no victory points. The imbalance is intensified by the fact that scoring is not linear, but quadratic, i.e., it's not "2 buildings is 2 points, 4 buildings is 4 points". Instead, it is "2 buildings is 2 points each, for 4 points, but 4 buildings is 4 points each, for 16 points". Thus, having one large city of 6 buildings would net you 36, while two moderate sized cities of 4 would be 16+16, or only 32. The score followed this. Kisa ended up controlling 2 good sized cities (4 or 5 buildings), for the win. I had one good sized city, Tim and Chad each had a small one, and Ron just had some scraps. Thus, the exponential nature of the scoring.

One interesting thing in this game: not much gangup potential. If you are winning, then you have control of good cities, and you get the income, and it's HARD to take over a city from someone when they have it under their control. (Mainly the way to score well is to build a city with someone else, so it's big, then win the battle over it with them, before either of you has taken total control of it, and thus take it over entirely.) However, it does have the problem of people being eliminated. Tim was basically out of the game after he lost the first city he was building up (and had spent all his money on) to Kisa. I saw that and built up a large force in a city and took down Chad, and Ron spread his power around and ended up with not enough to defend himself anywhere but one little city, so he lost most of his stuff. Even near the end it was clear Kisa had the game, and I was merely trying for a strong second.

We had a confrontation in this game over whether it was permissible to take back a move one had just made, if the move didn't affect anyone, no dice were involved, etc. I had made one move (building up power in a city), and right after it saw that I should have taken Ron's defenseless building in the city, which was about to generate some money at the end of the turn. The group was split over whether to allow this, with Ron being very opposed to it -- as he should be, after all, he didn't want to lose his building! I was being a bit belligerent about it, as I had not actually finished my previous action by paying for it (sorry about that everyone). I am used to my previous gaming group policy of being lenient in terms of takebacks... especially in the first time that a person has played a certain game. (This was our first play for all of us.)

So eventually I was unable to take back the move. Ironically, this turned out to be in my long term benefit! While I had built up my power in the city, Chad then took the defenseless building, and thus did not use that action to improve his own defenses there. I then took advantage of the turn bidding phase to take my next turn before Chad, attacked him with my (now) larger forces, destroying them and conquering the building which had been the subject of the dispute in the first place. Dominating that city ended up scoring me 25 of my 27 points for the game.

All in all, a pretty good wargame, and we would play it much differently the second time, I am sure, knowing it's a wargame and not just about building cities and buying cattle! (As those things will get stolen by others if you can't defend them.)


Apology accepted for the grumpiness, Alex. Actually I should be apologising to you. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, before you joined the group, we painfully hammered out the SeattleCosmicGuidelines for dealing with situations such as takebacks and kibitzing. IIRC, allowing a reasonable number of takebacks is supposed to be the default. I was too lazy to put up the Guidelines before, but now we have a Wiki, there's no excuse.


That's OK. As I said, it was ironic that the move I wished to take back was actually my most important move of the game, and ended up securing for me the city which got me all my points.



Dave, Eric, Marty and Mer played two traditional card games, starting with Pinochle. While Eric and Dave are seasoned Pinochle players, Mer had never played and Marty had played only once before; nonetheless, Mer and Marty play a lot of other card games, so learning Pinochle wasn't difficult.

Dave and Marty won as partners against Eric and Mer, largely due to a MASSIVELY fortunate deal on the last hand, resulting in an outrageously scoring hand being dealt to Marty. More importantly, fun was had by all.

-- Marty_Hale-Evans?

Something else we discovered was the dearth of "accurate" rules for Pinochle. No rulebook with "Hoyle" in the title listed a melding chart even remotely close the the group's experiences, nor even the basic ruleset that we (at least) all had in common. What's an extra Queen worth in your run? What's the score for Around The Horn, or, for that matter, what is "Around The Horn?" (I learned the term from my grandmother, and it's marriages in all four suits.) I have since discovered an outstandingly well-written set of rules for Pinochle on the web, which is also extremely close to the rules that our group agreed to play with.

-- Dave_Howell?

For Dave's awesome Pinochle rules, go check out Dave's awesome pinochle rules.



Dave & Marty ???
Eric & Mer ???



Next up, those card-playin' fools Dave, Eric, Marty and Mer played Spades. Dave and Marty love Spades -- Marty often says she failed an entire semester of college due to compulsive Spades playing and discovering e-mail -- but seldom find anyone else willing to play. Neither Eric nor Mer knew how to play, but were willing to learn. While not as complex as Bridge or Pinochle, Spades has an emphasis on partner play and very accurate bidding and winning tricks to match a bid, so it's a good game to learn to develop those card-playing skills. Also, like Hearts, it has enough action to keep it interesting, but doesn't require huge concentration, so it's also an excellent social card game.

Dave and Marty agreed that it wouldn't be fair to play with the two experienced players teamed against the newbies, so partnerships were switched. Dave and Mer won by a large margin, but that was partly because there was a certain amount of "balls-to-the-wall Spades" going on, which is somewhat common for Spades -- if one side starts to lose, there are several options that will allow the side to score big and catch up, but carry big penalties if they fail. For example, Eric, who had never played before, bid blind nil on the last hand as an act of desperation (because he and Marty were already losing) and also to try it, since there was little to lose at that point. This and a failed nil bid on a previous hand (which Marty tried, both to catch up and to give Eric a chance to learn how to partner a nil bid) made the spread much larger than would be indicated by their relative skill in playing, especially since both nil hands were lost by a very small margin, but still carried the large penalties.

Nonetheless, Dave and Mer won handily (no pun intended), and both novices enjoyed the game. Dave was awarded a deck of giant playing cards. Hope springs eternal that Spades will appear more often at Game Night.

-- Marty_Hale-Evans?


Dave & Mer 500
Eric & Marty -100

Schotten-Totten (redux)

At this point (11:00-11:15), almost everybody went home, and it was just "the fam" (Ron, Marty, Mer, and Kisa). Before leaving Alex tried to set up a repeat game of Schotten-Totten? with Marty, but then saw that his ride was leaving and had to abandon it. Mer stepped in to play the game, since it was already set up, and Marty won, but not by much.

-- Marty_Hale-Evans?

Bucket King

To close the evening, we played a quick game of Bucket_King?, which Marty and I (and possibly Mer) had never played before. It's a fun, light tactical game in which you try to knock over your opponents' piles of buckets, targeting the buckets on bottom with the right colour cards if you can, because losing buckets at your bottom will destroy more of the piles. (Wait, that doesn't sound good...)

Clockwise from L: Bucket King Kisa, Tied-for-Second Marty, and Big Loser Meredith.


Kisa G 10
Marty H-E 7
Ron H-E 7
Mer H 0

Happy New Year to all! May 2003 bring you an abundance of games, and an inexhaustible supply of opportunities to improve your standing in the game of life.


Supporting Seattle Cosmic

The Center for Ludic Synergy and Seattle Cosmic Game Night are associates of Funagain Games. This means that 5% of your purchase there goes toward supporting us if you buy games via THIS VERY LINK. Any game you buy during a web session you start by clicking the previous link qualifies; in fact, if you click it and bookmark the Funagain page that appears, you can donate 5% to Seattle Cosmic whenever you buy games, without having to return to this page. It's just as easy to bookmark as not, so why not make this your regular Funagain link? THIS MEANS YOU.

We've never yet earned enough money from the associates program for Funagain to cut us a check, and we're not sure what we'd do with the money -- but we promise not to squander it on booze and floozies.


Saturday, 4 January 2003, 5:00 PM in Kent (again). 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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