Seattle Cosmic Game Night

(Saturday, 10 June 2000)


Seattle Cosmic met again on 10 June 2000 at 8:00 P.M.. Present were Dave Adams, Marty and Ron Hale-Evans, Kathy Kizer, and Mark Purtill. We played two games: (1) Credo, a game published in the early Nineties by Chaosium, and (2) Medici, a Reiner Knizia design published in the U.S. by Rio Grande.

Credo is weird. It's a negotiation game set in the Roman Catholic Church from 325 to 637 C.E. (that's "A.D." if you're Christian, which none of us were very). Each player plays a sect with its own peculiar doctrine; the sect tries to get its doctrine incorporated into official Catholic dogma (called the Creed) in a series of Councils, thereby gaining "Flock" (followers). The primary object of the game is to have the most Flock by the time the ten Articles of the Creed are completed.

The doctrine of your sect is determined by cards dealt to you at the beginning of the game, which are numbered from 1 to 10 (corresponding to an Article). When you place the cards on your Church Display, you can choose between cards that have the same number and place them in three levels of importance: Articles of Faith, Firm Beliefs, and Customary Practices. In the photo of my Church Display below, you can see that all my Articles of Faith and Firm Belief slots are filled up, but I have room for 2 Customary Practices. (And I still don't have a head -- note, however, that my saying so is not an Article of Faith, but a mere Customary Practice.)

Players vote on which doctrines should become official. When you win a vote, you get to persecute and torture your enemies. As Mark remarked, "A nasty little game."

The blue Church Deck is made up of Bishops, Seculars such as the Emperor, and Flock Cards in several different "denominations". Each Bishop and Secular can cast votes for you, some more, some less. You draw from the Church Deck mostly when an Event Card tells you to, but you draw from the yellow Event/Article Deck once at the beginning of every turn. Event Cards allow (or force) you to do certain things like steal Bishops from other players and gain or lose Flock, and Article Cards allow you to flesh out your Church Display.

In the photo below you can see the layout of the entire table. Each player has a Church Display bearing yellow Article Cards, and next to it an array of blue Bishops and Seculars, with a single pile of Flock (kept hidden). In the center of the table is another board for the Event/Article and Church decks. (Clockwise from left: Dave, Kathy, Mark, Marty.)

Below, Dave claps as Kathy becomes Emperor. I believe at one point, Kathy had the Western Emperor, Eastern Emperor, and Eastern Empress in her church. (I'm not sure there's a Western Empress.)

Credo designer Chris Gidlow is an Oxford don of theology. Some people think he should have remained so. Personally, I enjoyed the game, but thought it was flawed. Marty agreed, saying that the concept and content of the game were interesting enough that they warranted some work on the game's mechanics. We hope to discuss this on the Seattle Cosmic mailing list.

One flaw that was our own fault was our using a variant from the Credo errata that states players should pick randomly from their opponents' Flocks when persecuting them, etc., not just take the biggest cards. After playing it Go-Fish-style, I think I'd like the original way better -- persecution would be truly scary instead of a ho-hum situation in which the Flock thief will probably pick a small card blindly anyway. It would also mean that the Church deck, which gets reshuffled and reused, might have some really good cards in it instead of a bunch of tiny Flocks. There'd also be a lot more action, as millions of flock constantly changed hands. And not least of all, I might have had a @#*$ing chance at winning last night...

Oh, for the middle third of the game or so, I had 73 votes, more than most two other players combined, and about 5 million Flock. In a tragic display of leader-bashing, however, I was reduced to 9 votes and 500,000 flock by game's end. (I'm grimly pleased to report no one had as many votes as I did, ever again.) My beloved wife Marty won the game with almost 5 million flock, Mark Purtill came in second with about 3 million, Dave was third with about 2.5 million, and Kathy had a little less. From my wretched estate, I concluded that there are two main ways to win Credo: either mind your own business, piling up Flock quietly (as Marty did), or be bloodthirsty and ruthless, persecuting your opponents at every opportunity (as I didn't, but should have). Marty calls these the "St. Francis" and "Pope" strategies.

Here's a shot of Marty grabbing some cards from the central stockpile. Look at her go! Her victory took me totally by surprise; I was betting on Mark.

And what is this? The Seattle Cosmic Space Slug! Saved! Saved from the very brink of a horrible demise, born again, brothers and sisters, and testifying to the truth of the One True Creed! (Uh, ours, that is.)

One of the best parts about Credo is that when the Creed is finally completed at the end of the game, everyone must solemnly intone it together. Here is what our game came up with (emphasis in the original).

  1. I believe in many gods, including:
  2. The Father, Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth, of all things visible and invisible.
  3. Who appeared as Our Lord, Jesus Christ,
  4. Whose spirit, the Divine Word, is eternally begotten of the Father,
  5. Being of a different substance but having the same will as the Father;
  6. By the Power of the Holy Spirit, He became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate;
  7. He suffered and was buried.
  8. On the third day He rose again. He ascended into Heaven and was reunited with the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom shall have no end.
  9. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and with them is worshipped and glorified.
  10. The Traditions of the Church are those followed by the Apostles, and should not be changed.

Article 1 is Pagan; 2, 6, and 7 are Orthodox; 3 is Monophysite; 4 is Apollinarian; 5 is Monothelite; 8 is Marcellian; 9 is Catholic; and 10 is Nicene. What this means is that only a handful of the articles above are in the Nicene Creed today; the rest are considered heresy. You're looking at a Nicene Creed from an alternate universe!

With the exception of Article 1, which is a bit of an eyebrow-raiser, you might wonder what the big deal is, but millions of people died to hammer the Nicene Creed into its current form. Look at (Monophysite) Article 3, "Who appeared as our Lord, Jesus Christ." The word "appeared" brought a lot of persecution down on the Monophysite Christians back in the day. The Orthodox position (as we know it now) was that Jesus was "wholly God and wholly man." The Monophysites, on the other hand, believed that the human nature of Jesus was an illusion, an "appearance" -- that Jesus was actually God to the last drop.

Heh heh. Oh, I got a million of 'em. If you're nice to me I'll let you read my book, The Holey Babble: The New Improved Testament. (If you're not nice to me, I'll make you read it.)

As I said, Marty won. Marty and I don't usually award ourselves prizes, but we still owed Dave a prize for winning Acquire two weeks ago, so in keeping with the theme of the evening, we gave him Sister Sproing, a bouncy-bouncy nun (wait, that doesn't sound good) from Archie McPhee:

Few know today that after the Catholic Church forced Galileo to recant in the 17th century, he formulated two principles that Newton incorporated into his First Law later on: a nun at rest tends to remain at rest, and a nun in motion tends to remain in motion (see below). "In short," Galileo concluded wistfully, "it is better to let sleeping dogmas lie."

It was 11 PM, and we had been playing Credo for 3 hours. Mark wished us goodnight, reminding us he wouldn't be able to attend for a few weeks. The rest of us said goodbye, then decided to try a game that Dave had brought called Medici.

Just a few minutes into Dave's explanation of the rules, I exclaimed, "This is a much better game than Credo!" Everyone laughed, but it was true. Your various tasks in Medici -- filling your ship with the most valuable cargo, competing to bring home the most loads of particular types of cargo, maximising the amount of gold you have each turn, and so on -- are all counterbalanced in a way that reminds one of a fine machine. I had a sneaking suspicion, so I asked Dave for the game's author. "It's Reiner Knizia," he said. "Why?"

Why is that Knizia is quickly becoming one of my favourite game designers. To me, he is sort of the German Sid Sackson. He is prolific, and all of his games I have seen or read about so far bear the marks of careful, clever thought. So far my favourite Knizia game is his first design: En Garde.

Here's a shot of Kathy dealing some cargo cards into an auction lot. Even dealing has a strategic element in this game: depending on how full your ships and your opponents' ships are, you may be able to prevent your opponents from getting some choice cargo by dealing more than their ships can carry -- and you may even be able to rig it so that you can win an auction lot with a single gold piece by being the only bidder!

Here's the Medici board, cards, and playing pieces (and the Slug, meandering along looking for a good deal). You can see there are 5 kinds of cargo: spices, dye, cloth, furs, and grain. The green and purple boards above and below the main board are two ships -- you can see each can carry only 5 items of cargo. Judge wisely...

I aimed to conserve my gold by carrying only cargo that I could buy cheaply, but Kathy judged most wisely of all of us, spending money freely and making it plentifully. As I recall, the other three of us were within a few gold pieces of one another by the end, but Kathy was way ahead. For having a ship so heavy-laden, Kathy was awarded a Daffy Duck Pez dispenser...

Medici only took an hour, including explanation of the rules! After one game, however, it was a few minutes after midnight, so we closed up shop. So ended another Seattle Cosmic Game Night. John Braley, Peter Schultz, and Paul Unwin had been unable to attend (and were sorely missed!) because Master Driver Paul was performing with the Washingtonians, a very funny comedy chorus based here in Seattle.

Marty and I went to see the Washingtonians at their matinee show today. Since Meredith Wilson is also in the chorus, since Peter, Dave, and Kathy, and Kam Yee (who played Diplomacy with us) were also in the audience, I count 8 members of Seattle Cosmic at the show today. Perhaps we should make a party of it next time. Meanwhile, don't forget to check out the Washingtonians web site for information on tickets for their next show.

What? No, they don't pay me to say that.

Here's the scorecard:

Thanks once again to Marty Hale-Evans for miraculously ministering to my mutilated prose, and a few good jokes too.

P.S. After finishing the newsletter (with all its nun jokes) tonight, I stepped into the livingroom and discovered Marty was watching an episode of The Practice in which the Mystery Serial Killer turned out to be a psychopath dressed as a nun. (It was his habit.) Ah, WHGA -- or, as it may be here on the West Coast, KHGA.

P.P.S. There were faux nuns at the Washingtonians concert today too, doing the "Purgatory Limbo". Hmm...


Saturday, 17 June 2000, 8:00 PM at Ron and Marty's in Kent.

Remember, game nights at Ron and Marty's are every Saturday at 8:00 PM. Come play for fun and FABULOUS PRIZES! Please bring a snack or drink (cookies, chips, soda, juice, etc.).

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Page last updated 12 June 2000.