I’m suffering today. Mostly, it’s due to the pittance of sleep (3 hours) I got on Tuesday night. I always sacrifice rest to game night on game nights, but this week was even worse since I wanted to hang around and spend a few last moments with Alton, who will be leaving the area (and our group, obviously) after this week. Alton was one of our original members, being one of the six of us who attended our very first game night 4 years ago!
The old man was a force to be reckoned with, and I know that I and the rest of the group will miss him greatly. Good luck, Alton; go and enjoy the ridiculous amount of money they had to throw your way to lure you away from us. But still try to come back and visit us soon!
Otherwise, our numbers were again down this week, with only 6 of us being able to make it. It’s not that unusual for us to have a little bit of a winter slump after the holidays and our anniversary party, but we can’t help but wonder if this drastic decline in attendance is also related to the store’s new membership program. Basically, you have to pay a monthly fee (or by the night) to be able to use the play area, and while you get this money back as store credit for game purchases, I’ve already heard a number of comments about people who haven’t been able to come due to money reasons. And I also fear that it’s especially becoming a barrier to those in our group who travel a longer distance and are more intermittent in their normal ability to attend and to new members, of course.
So, local guys, do you think this is what’s going on? Should we worry? Is it affecting your ability or interest to attend?
Everyone else, do your FLGS’s have programs like this? Does/did it affect your game group? Do you have any advice?
But that’s enough talk about that. Let’s get on to the actual games I played…
Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer [BGG]
I got there a little late, as normal, so the gang was finishing up a game of our new Game of the Month!, Factory Fun, as I arrived. Afterwards, Chip and Kenny peeled off to play a couple games of Julius Caesar while the rest of us played a quick game of Ascension.
We started with a lot of demons and high-cost cards cluttering up the board, so most of us grabbed up Heavy Infantry for a few turns. I think that I managed to come out of that the best, though, and then started trying to move towards a more rune-based deck from that point on. I didn’t feel like any of our decks were very good (due mostly to what came up), and I was especially surprised when I found that I had actually won, edging Alton out by one teeny-weeny, little point.
Time: 23 minutes
Score: Me 50, Alton 49, Chris 45, Shawn 42
Ratings: Me 8, Alton 9, Chris 10, Shawn 9
Ascension is pretty light, but it’s still a lot of fun and always interesting to me. I’m still having a lot of fun with it each time I play, but I’m also starting to feel like it needs an expansion just to keep it fresh. We even talked a little about what we thought might be included in the upcoming expansion, in fact, and I really can’t wait to see it.
Code 777 [BGG]
We then had our obligatory few moments of looking at each other and saying, “I don’t know, what do you want to play?”, but then Chris mentioned Code 777 and it was on like Donkey Kong. There’s not really much narrative to speak of in this themeless deduction game, but we had fun and ended up playing 2 games back-to-back, both of which I managed to win.
If there’s anything really interesting to talk about, I think it’d have to be how differently I and Shawn (who finished second in both games) played. I approach this very conservatively, carefully tracking any numbers that I see or figure out and making sure that I don’t make a guess until I’m absolutely certain I know what I’m doing. Shawn, however, made a lot of incorrect guesses in both games, where he maybe knew one or two of the numbers but took the chance of possibly getting ahead by going out on a limb. He was really close to pulling it out in the second game, but still came up a little short.
Time: 25 and 27 minutes
Game 1: Me 3, Shawn* 2, Alton* 1, Chris* 1
Game 2: Me 3, Shawn 2, Alton 1, Chris 1
Ratings: Me 7.5, Shawn 8, Alton 7, Chris 7
Other than the obvious observational and logic skills involved in Code 777, the other thing that I think is important is figuring out how best to take notes on the little note sheets. I mean, clearly, you scratch out numbers that you see or can eliminate. But pretty often, you get a little nugget of information that doesn’t help you right now, but possibly could in the future, so you need to be able to keep track of that effectively as well.
And something that I’m still trying to get my head around is what, if anything, you can do to get an advantage when the tiles are reshuffled (once all of them have been used once). It sort of resets the game, so at least on the surface, it seems like you almost have to completely scrap all of your previous information and start over, but I get the feeling that there may still be something that I should be able to carry forward. And certainly, on a tactical level, the turns leading up to reshuffle are very important since identifying your numbers twice before it is a huge advantage, and that may even warrant taking a little more risk in making a less-educated guess if the new tiles you get will still be from before the shuffle.
Now I want to play again so that I can see if any of this actually matters, or if I’m maybe just reading a little too much into it…
Here’s the whole crew this week: Alton, Chris, and Shawn at my table, and then Chip and Kenny at the far table.
Next to hit the table was Fresco, which is still relatively new to all of us (and brand-spankin‘-new to Alton). We all sort of felt our way around for a few turns, picking up paint and completing a fresco tile or two here and there. It’s hard to remember a lot of details, though, until we got into the endgame.
On what turned out to be the penultimate turn, I managed to complete three tiles to increase my income to six and take a pretty decent lead, but completely exhausting all of my paint supply in the process. My plan was to then spend the remaining turns just collecting money (which turn into victory points as well) and maybe picking up another few points from the altar. But I didn’t really figure on Chris and Shawn completing enough tiles to trigger the end of the game, meaning that I would have pretty much nothing to do on the last turn of the game (other than collect money and waste my two other actions). Alton, meanwhile, had planned well and completed 3 big tiles on the last turn to push past me and get the win.
Time: 54 minutes
Score: Alton* 68, Me 57, Chris 55, Shawn 42
Ratings: Alton 9, Me 7.5, Chris 8, Shawn 7.5
After finding Fresco a little bland in my first play, it has continued to get better and better as I’ve played it a couple of more times. The “get up time” mechanic is just awesome, and I really appreciate how cool and thematic/realistic the paint mixing element is. Plus, what always gets me excited is when I can think about and plan for a game when I’m not actually playing it, and I’m already thinking of what I’m going to try next time. So that’ll probably mean that next time will be pretty soon, and hopefully will include one or two of the little expansions included in the base game.
Tribune: Primus Inter Pares [BGG]
Tribune was our Favorite Game of the Year in 2009, and it continues to get play pretty often in our group. Unlike Fresco, all four of us playing are very experienced with Tribune, so the game just flew by (causing me to forget to take any pictures!).
Alton made “the move” on turn 1, managing to pull off some leader shenanigans and claim a freaking Tribune (the hardest victory condition to get) right at the start! The rest of us were definitely playing catch up from there, but I thought I was doing pretty well until he was able to get 4 faction markers, 8 laurels, and 3 legions on turn 3 to end the game. I had 2 conditions myself (money & favor of the gods) and probably could have pulled off two more on the next turn, so I still felt pretty good about how I did.
Time: 30 minutes
Score: Alton 4, Me 2, Chip 0, Kenny 0
Ratings: Alton 9.5, Me 9, Chip 9, Kenny 8.5
30 freaking minutes! That’s just crazy. I still don’t play this game enough.
Blue Moon City [BGG]
To finish off the night, we sort of made Alton choose how he would end his time with us, and he finally decided on a game of Blue Moon City. Somehow or another, Kenny had never played before, so we went over the rules first and then got down to it.
Again, the game doesn’t have the strongest narrative, because for the early game we just sort of ran around making some contributions to buildings here and there. I don’t usually think that it’s quite as big a deal as some to make offerings when they’re cheapest, so I spent a little more time doing work around the “board” while others occasionally headed back to the center. Alton has the expansion tiles in his game as well, so I also used a couple of them (the one that lets you move anywhere and the Hospital, which lets you draw 2 more cards) a few times to get a bit of an advantage. In the end, I managed to make my last three offerings on three consecutive turns, with Chip and Kenny being just one turn away from making their fourth as well.
Time: 50 minutes
Score: Me 4, Kenny* 3, Chip 3, Alton 2
Ratings: Me 8, Kenny 7.5, Chip 9, Alton 10
If we didn’t already have 2 or 3 other copies of this game, I’d pick it up in a second. It’s a really cool game of hand management and semi-cooperative play, along with a very significant element of pace and timing. Plus, I seem to do pretty well at it.
Hey – why the heck hasn’t this been Game of the Month! before? Maybe we should remember this come the end of the month…
Other Games Played
Time: 47 minutes
Score: Kenny 77, Chris 67, Chip 64, Alton 54, Shawn 45
Ratings: Kenny 8, Chris 8, Chip 8, Alton 8.5, Shawn 8
Time: 50 and 45 minutes
Game 1: Chip* (Pompey) 10, Kenny* (Caesar) 3
Game 2: Chip (Pompey) 10, Kenny (Caesar) 2
Ratings: Chip 7, Kenny 7
Time: ?? (short)
Score: Chip* (Lizard Man) – Win, Kenny (Goblin) – Lose
Ratings: Chip 7, Kenny 8
Race for the Galaxy
Time: 25 and 25 minutes
Game 1: Chris 62, Alton 51, Shawn 39
Game 2: Chris 67, Shawn 40, Alton 24
Ratings: Chris 10, Alton 10, Shawn 8
* First play for that Person