Our gaming nights have started filling up and tonight was no different. We used all but one chair at the peak point during the night, which means we had 19 people sitting at the gaming tables undertaking this wonderful hobby. Ethan and I were able to split up from each other the whole night and get to play completely different games!
Amber’s Gaming Experience
I had a chance to play 3 different games last night: Tokaido, Salem, and Bang: The Dice Game. These were all three games that I’ve played before, but I haven’t played Tokaido or Bang in a while, so it was nice to revisit both of those.
I seem to have this problem with Tokaido where I never win. I mean, it’s not a problem that I don’t win, it’s not everything after all. But I just never diversify enough to even get close, and even when I identify the problem, I don’t solve it! When we were playing last night, I again got too focused on finishing the panorama that I didn’t ever visit the souvenir shop, only visited the hot springs once, and rarely got to go to the farm to get more money. I did make sure to get enough money in the temple, but I was tied with two other players for first, so it was a bit of a wash. There definitely is a bit of luck involved with turn order and drawing cards (like when you only have 1 coin and there are no 1 coin food left at the inn, even though you were the first to get there), so I hope playing with the expansions adds a bit more skill to the game.
Salem has been a pretty big hit with everyone we’ve played with in the group. Rob and I did talk about making sure the game didn’t get burned out, which can happen in our group when people REALLY like a game. We played with 9 people, so not quite a full house, but it allowed for the use of both of the witch cards as well as the Constable. I had to teach the game, as everyone had never played it or only played it once, and it really made me nervous because I wasn’t really prepared to teach. I powered through it and think I did ok, but I discovered at the end of the game this 9 was really too many, even though the box said it was ok. Maybe it was the combination of people playing, but I really enjoyed our games with 5. I think I’d like to try this game again with maybe 7 and see how it works then.
Bang!: The Dice Game
Our final game of the night was Bang. I was the Sherriff, much like every game I’ve played of this I believe, and had tough time figuring out who my Vices were. We played with a full house on this game (8), so when you began the game, you weren’t able to shoot some of the players unless you had a Gatling Gun, so it made it hard to know if people weren’t shooting me because they couldn’t, or because they were on my team. We started narrowing people down until it got to me and Nate, who was a renegade. I rolled 3 hits and needed to get him for 4, had only 1 arrow left in the pile, one dynamite already and only one roll left. It all came down to this final roll, which I nailed with a number 1. It was a pretty satisfying victory and nice to have won in a showdown.
And if that’s not how it happened, it’s fine, because it’s my story.
I also got to play three different games last night, and none of them were the same as ones Amber played. Instead, I played with three great gamers who I’ll call Christy, Paul, and Stephen… because those are their names. On the Meetup page before the event, I listed a few games I was interested in getting played, and those three all expressed an interest in Seasons, so that’s what I had set up and ready to play when everyone arrived.
I really like this game a lot, even though I’ve only played it a few times in person. I have played a lot on Board Game Arena online, though, so overall I’m familiar with the mechanics and cards. Of my fellow players, though, only Stephen had played before, and then only once, last August. So, everyone was in need of some instruction or a refresher on the rules. One negative about Seasons is that it’s not necessarily the easiest game to pick up. The mechanics are easy enough — most of the game revolves around card/dice drafting and then collecting the right resources to play out your cards — but the game is very heavy on terminology and various card powers which make the initial draft take a while as everyone reads through their cards to figure out which the best ones to keep are. It’d probably take a few plays of the game before everyone becomes familiar with a lot of the cards, which is part of why I included Seasons in my 10×10 Challenge this year, hoping to get it played at least 10 times throughout the year.
Anyway, after the extensive rules intro everyone seemed to pick up the game fairly well, and the play went smoothly. Paul and Stephen seemed to have found the “mean” cards that most negatively affect other players during the drafting phase. They each had, I think, two different familiars that would steal points from other players, either at the end of each round/season, or when someone tried to summon out a card or use one of their cards’ abilities. In addition, Christy had a card whereby she would get points at the end of each round for having at least 4 energy in her pool, so there ended up being a lot of bookkeeping on the scoreboard. At the end of the game when everyone was totaling up their end-game scores, Stephen was last and simply said “124”, so in response I moved his piece to the space on the score track corresponding with 124 points. However, he clarified that, no, he meant that he needed to add 124 points to his score. I was a bit flummoxed as none of us could remember exactly where his piece had been before, and since it was clearhe was way ahead of any of the rest of us, we gave him 174 and called it a day. Then, Christy came in second with 152, Paul in third with 139, and I brought up the rear with 134. Altogether it was a good game with great people, and I can’t wait to get it to the table again.
After Seasons, we needed something a bit smaller and quicker, especially as Stephen had only 30 about minutes before having to leave us. So, Christy brought out one of her perennial favorites, Arboretum (note that as a horticulturist, Christy is required to like/own pretty much every game about plants or farming ever invented). Anyway, Arboretum is a very deceptive game — it looks very simple since, after all, it’s just a deck of tree cards and you just draw two, play one, and discard one each turn. But the game is actually a lot more complex than it looks — in order to score a given tree type in your Arboretum, you must have the highest combined value of that type in your hand at the end of the game. I was well prepared for this mechanic, even though I kept drawing 7 value cards of the tree types I didn’t want, making me discard them and give them to my opponents. I was able to make two really good paths in my arboretum and still hang onto enough points of those tree types in my hand to score them both. In the end, I was able to win with 26 points, which I think is a pretty good score for this game.
We decided to finish the night off with something light and palate cleansing, so we went with Elevenses. Interestingly enough, the last time I played Elevenses was also just after playing Seasons, so I guess those two games go together somehow. Anyway, I got to play this time with both Christy and Paul, neither of whom had played before, but both of whom expressed a desire to get a copy of the game for themselves while we were playing. If that isn’t a sign of a successful game, I don’t know what is! While describing the game, I called it Love Letter-esque because of its composition (a few different kinds of cards that each do something different when played), gameplay (play a card and then pick one up into your hand), and scoring/win conditions (collect sugar cubes by winning a round, and accumulate 5 cubes to win). I like this game a lot more than Love Letter though, as it does have a bit more strategy. For example, when we played there were times when I could end the round by paying the a Elevenses card, but chose not to because I wasn’t leading in points (spoons) at that moment. We ended up with pretty close numbers of sugar cubes as well, with 6 (me), 5 (Christy), and 4 (Paul). But this was not that competitive of a game, but rather one where we just had fun playing together. And that, friends, is the true meaning of gaming.