Ghost Stories from the Princes of Catan

Well, I wasn’t able to make it to game night last week.  Gwen had Lasik surgery on the Thursday before, and she was still needing some help with Samantha and doing some eye maintenance by last Tuesday, so I stayed home like a good husband.  Still, though, I managed to get in a little gaming both alone and with Gwen, so let me give you a rundown.

Catan Dice Game

The first thing I did last Tuesday to quell the yearning for gaming action was to play the Catan Dice Game a couple of times by myself.  What’s cool about it is that I was able to do this while sitting in my recliner next to Gwen and the sleeping Samantha.  In the first game, I didn’t do anything special, but in the second, I got my highest score ever.  I focused on building roads and claiming knights early, and then shifted late to completing all the cities.  I managed to fulfill my plan, scoring an incredible 105 points!

Overall, I don’t think that I’d bother bringing this to game night.  It’s a very elementary Yahtzee re-theme, and not fun at all when you’re not actually rolling the dice.  There is no player interaction at all, and it’s obviously dominated by the luck of the dice.  However, for a game that you can play by yourself in 10 minutes while watching TV in a recliner, it’s the best!     

Ghost Stories

Later that same night, I decided to forego a bit of sleep to play a solo game of Ghost Stories.  I went for the “Nightmare” difficulty level (which placed 3 different incarnations of Wu Feng in the ghost deck), and randomly drew the Yellow Taoist with the Bottomless Pockets power.  The neutral boards were (in clockwise order from me) Red with Dance of the Peaks (flight), Green with Strength of a Mountain (extra Tao die, no curse die), and Blue with Heavenly Gust (use power and exorcize).

To put it simply, I dominated the game.  I was never really challenged, always having at least 3 Qi and never having more than one Village Tile haunted at a time.  I defeated the Hope Killer, Vampire Lord, and Bone Cracker incarnations with little difficulty, and (using the “correct” scoring rules found in the revised rulebook) scored a near-perfect 31 points.

All that said, the game was still not what I’d call “easy”.  I felt a lot of tension all game long, but using my knowledge and experience in setting priorities and maximizing my actions, there was nothing that I couldn’t handle.  If anything, my only regret about the game was that I didn’t play it on “Hell” level, because I feel pretty sure that I would have had the same result on that difficulty as well (since the only difference is not starting with your Yin-Yang token).  Even after taking a little bit of a break from this game, I’d still say that it’s my favorite solo game, and I’m going to try to get it to the table multi-player soon as well. 

The Princes of Florence (2-player Variant) 

Gwen have been trying to make a more regular habit of playing a game or two every Saturday night.  Depending on the situation, we’ve been more successful on some weeks than others, and in general have played mostly Ticket to Ride (which is probably her favorite game).  This weekend, however, we tried out something different.  The Princes of Florence is my favorite boardgame, and is near the top of Gwen’s list as well, so we finally decided to try out the “official” 2-player rules.

For those of you familiar with the game, there aren’t really that many changes.  Auctions start at 300 florin (instead of 200), all the landscapes count as a single item for the auction (meaning that both players can’t buy landscapes in the same turn), and you limit the number of freedoms where one of them has only one copy available.

Effectively, the auction phase becomes just an extra action, because it is rare that both people will want to fight tooth-and-nail for the same item when there are so many other items available for a guaranteed rock-bottom price.  As it turned out, I decided to try out a builder strategy, and Gwen actually implemented a very similar plan.  There were a couple of turns where we bid up builders a little, but in general we each just played our own game.  In the end, she gave me my first defeat in this game in over 2 years, winning 65-62.  

I think that my mistake was in buying all three builders.  Because I completed 5 works (which is a little high for a pure builder strategy), I don’t think that I dedicated enough actions to just picking up free buildings.  I fulfilled the “Fewest Empty Spaces” prestige card, but if I had used one other auction to dig and maybe find one of the other building/builder-related ones, I may have been able to win.  Gwen played very well, and her focus on making her works better and being opportunistic in when to play them got her the “best work” bonus four or five times, which made the difference.  Of course, completing 3 Prestige Cards didn’t hurt, either.

Overall, while it’s not quite as great an experience as the regular game, I still had a great time.  The thing that I like best about Princes is the planning and exploring with different strategies, and if anything, it’s even easier to do that in this setting.  Assuming that Gwen is willing (and heck, why wouldn’t she be after beating me), I hope that this will fall into our regular rotation.

I also tried to find time over the last week or two to get in a game or two of solo Agricola, but just couldn’t get it done.  Both to compare it to Ghost Stories as a solo game and just to get it to the table again, I want to make an effort to play through a whole solo series.  But we’ll see if that ever happens…  


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