I missed my regular game night last week because I was preparing for a quick business trip to Denver for some really cool training. But thankfully, we’re living in the future, so I was able to search BoardGameGeek and find a local game group there that met on Thursday evening, which is when I was flying in! So after driving to Raleigh, waiting in the airport, flying a couple of hours to Memphis, waiting for a little longer in a different airport, flying 2 more hours to Denver, then navigating through a shuttle bus and renting a car, driving through rush-hour traffic into town, and then waiting 20 or 30 minutes to be able to check into my hotel, I was finally ready to catch a bite to eat and find the game store.
And really, “game store” doesn’t quite describe the Wizard’s Chest. It started its life as a costume shop way back in 1983, and since then has morphed into also including lots of toys, novelties, magic tricks, and, of course, games. When I walked in and started browsing through the game section, three people were playing Martian Dice at a folding table along the back of the lower level. As they finished up and started talking about playing another game, I wandered over and introduced myself.
The group organizer was Alan, and the other two players were married couple Michael and Melissa. Kevin Pohle, the owner of the store, also then joined us as we set up and played…
Michael and Melissa had only played once or twice before, so we stuck with just the basic 5 epidemics, but we did use the expansion roles and special event cards. And overall, we did really well all game long. In just the first few turns, we had a nice network of Research Stations set up from a timely Government Grant card and Michael being the Ops Expert. Melissa was the Medic, so she got to wreck up some serious disease cubes, which never really got out of hand at all.
I was a little worried early on, in fact, that we were spending way too much time on board control and not working towards any cures. But before long, we engineered getting me (the Scientist) one cure, and I practically drew into a second one just a turn or so later. We were getting down to the bottom third or maybe quareter of the deck when we cured the fourth disease and won.
Score: We won! My Rating: 10 (of course!)
It’s always cool to play Pandemic, and especially to see players new to it just begin to understand the strategy and tactics of how to do well. Michael and Melissa aren’t really new gamers or anything, so they caught on really quickly to the planning discussions that Alan, Kevin, and I were having. By the end, we were all pretty equal partners, I’d say.
It’s sort of odd that I just happened to play Pandemic last week as well (as I mentioned yesterday). I had some of the same feelings I mentioned in that report, but the biggest thing I dealt with in this play was trying really hard not to take on the role of “Game Group Organizer” and launching into the rules teach or managing the game as I normally would in my own group. Oh, that and all the dizziness and dropping things and feeling wonky from the altitude, of course, but I didn’t really recognize that until the next day when one of my workshop organizers mentioned it. I just thought my blood sugar was low, so I ate like a whole roll of SweetTarts, which did quite the opposite to my sugar when I checked it later on back at the hotel.
7 Wonders [BGG]
Kevin had to get his son home at this point, but the rest of us pulled out 7 Wonders next for a quick game. Alan went over the rules (which I was pretty rusty on as well), but then we got started pretty soon. I’ve had pretty good success before with collecting the monuments (blue cards), and when I got handed a ton of them, I just kept holding onto them this game as well.
Michael was to my left, and despite me trying my best to bury green (technology) cards, he kept gathering them more and more as we headed into the 2nd and 3rd age (aided by him having the Mausoleum, which let him build some buildings that I and others had discarded earlier). He and Alan beat up on me in the first to ages, but I managed to at least get ahead of him in Military in the last round, but when we totalled up points, Michael still managed to stay a few points ahead of me on the strength of his green sets.
Score: Michael 50ish, Me 48, Melissa and Alan – something less than 48 My Rating: 7
I like 7 Wonders well enough, but there’s really not a lot of depth in it. Everyone goes on about how you can “play 7 people in 30 minutes!” and all, which is totally true, but sometimes, it feels like the short play time is more of an attraction for it than the actual play experience. I really need to try out the Leaders expansion, I suppose, because I understand that it adds a nice other layer of depth and strategy that is pretty absent in the base game.
No Thanks! [BGG]
Michael and Melissa needed to get home to relieve the babysitter, but I talked them into a few hands of No Thanks! to round out the evening. They loved it, of course, ’cause it totally rocks.
Score: I’m pretty sure I won 2 hands, but then blew the last one My Rating: 8
I wanted to play a little longer, but fatigue and hunger and the thin air were all getting to me, so I called it a night as well when Michael and Melissa left. I really appreciate Alan and the Wizard’s Chest welcoming me into their game night, though, and I would love to visit with them again sometime if I ever find my way back to Denver.
I actually managed to get back over there on Friday night as well to do a little shopping for my little girls (since you need to bring back presents when you go away, of course), and I also ended up grabbing Anomia (a really great party game we played for the first time back in March) for Gwen and me as well. I got to talk with Alan and Kevin a little more then as well, and again, it’s just so cool to be able to travel all over the country (or the world, for that matter) and find gamers just like me to spend time with.
Walnut Grove [BGG]
I also took along some solo games just in case I had some extra time alone in my hotel room. As it turned out, between going to game night and being rather exhausted, I didn’t find a lot of time to pull them out, but I did get in a solo play of the relatively new Walnut Grove.
It’s basically played over 8 “years” made up of 4 seasons each. In the Spring, you place 1 or 2 new land tiles; in the Summer, you place your workers on your tiles to collect resources; in Fall, you do something in town (like pick up extra workers, sell resources, buy improvements, and other stuff like that); and in Winter, you have to pay/feed your workers and keep them warm (using resources or money).
Solo play isn’t much different from the full game, other than there is a pre-set “victory” score (of at least 25 points). It was only my first play, and I only scored 22 points, which I was a little disappointed in.
Score: I lost, dadgummit! My Rating: How the heck should I know?
I’ve heard Walnut Grove described as “Agricola meets Carcassonne”, but that doesn’t really encapsulate it at all. I mean, I guess there maybe is a touch of Agricola in there, but the only relation to Carc is that it has tiles in it.
The game it actually reminded me of most was Peloponnes. Mechanically, they aren’t really similar at all, but both Peloponnes and Walnut Grove are very short games with just a few key choices played over just 8 turns. So the feel and scope of the games are very similar, and they’re probably a very similar weight overall. And really, that’s a pretty favorable comparison for Walnut Grove, because I like Peloponnes quite a bit.
Still, I can’t even begin to make up my mind about it until I play it with others, so I’ll come back to it soon, I’m sure.
Now I’m almost caught up with my gaming reports. But last night was game night, and it was actually even our first RPG night, so I’ll hopefully get around to talking about it by early next week…