Friday was game night and oh what a game night it was! The house was packed again, RSVPs were maxed out (I was actually on the waiting list because I RSVPed late due to work to be done, luckily someone cancelled a few hours before so I could actually go!), and there were newbies and old-bies galore. Ethan and I were actually able to play together, not that we needed to, but it sure helped after a long week!
Amber’s Gaming Experience
This week was one from the depths of the fiery underworld, so I desperately need to play games and with people I was comfortable with. I got to gaming a bit late, so luckily there was a spot for me at the Lords of Xidit. It even left us a bit of room to play Stone Age, which I’ll gush about in a bit!
Lords of Xidit
I have to preface this by saying I totally won. A programming game. Against engineers. Against my very own computer engineer. Ethan says the game isn’t really about programming, but I think what I want. So Lords of Xidit came into our collection from a wonderful Wedding Shower thrown for us by the members of our gaming group, the Janesville Pegheads. The game is set in the same world as Seasons, so the art is pretty, though limited to what is seen compared to Seasons. We don’t get a chance to play this game often, since it doesn’t play with two, so it was really nice to have a solid group to play with. The few times we have played the game, the programming management has really gotten to me, even though there are only 3 different actions you can take, so I really made sure to concentrate on ensuring that my programming was correct each time. I took a different strategy this time we played; I made sure to collect a bunch of people so that at each auction, I was able to get multiple of the rewards. This really helped me boost up in the final scoring and even though I did not get the best in each category, I was able to knock off a few of the leaders in the first two rounds and ultimately come out victorious.
Ever since we’ve been playing on Board Game Arena, this has been one of my favorite games. It’s been out of print for a very long time and I’ve considered at times dropping a large amount of money to obtain it because I wanted it SO BADLY! Finally, one day, I got this beautiful, wonderful email from CSI saying it was back in stock. I needed to wait to talk to Ethan so I knew if we needed anything else (since I can’t make a Cool Stuff Order less than $100, of course) and my friend Eric actually messaged me making sure I knew the game was back in stock! Oh, I knew. I totally knew.
We decided to play with three for times sake and giving me more of a chance to win sake. This game is a fairly basic worker placement and took less than 20 minutes to explain, so we were able to jump right in. Meeples were flying all over the place, as we were racing the clock to get the game finished. Luckily for me, I’ve played speed rounds of Stone Age trying to make sure I could finish a game online before I needed to sleep, but I think this put Ethan and Rob at a disadvantage. When the scores came out, Ethan only had 90ish points, Rob in the 120s, and I was in the 170s. We played again over the weekend at a much more leisurely pace and the scores were a bit more even. But I didn’t care. I totally won. And even though winning isn’t everything, it sure lifted up the end of my crummy week.
Ethan’s Gaming Experience
One of the things I really like about our Meetup group and the sessions we have is getting to play somewhat heavier or “thinkier” games, especially those that can’t be played or don’t work well with two. That’s exactly the experience our first game of the night, Lords of Xidit provided. Then we got to break out Stone Age, one of Amber’s favorite online games (via BGA) that we just managed to snag the physical copy of due to a recent reprint. And since those two games filled up the time of the Meetup, let’s get to talking about them!
Lords of Xidit
While Lords of Xidit is a game that’s in our collection, the copy we played was actually our friend Rob’s — he had recently gotten it and hadn’t had a chance to play it yet. So besides the three of us we had Brian and Andy, who were new to the game. LoZ isn’t a terribly complicated game, as there are only really three different possible actions (movement, recruiting units, and defeating monsters), but due to the programming nature of the game and elimination-based scoring system, it can take a bit to fully grasp. So Rob took a good while to get the game taught, but after that we were ready to go, placing our figures on the map and programming our six actions for the first of the 12 game rounds. I feel like I started off pretty strongly, recruiting a good number of units, though lacking a bit in the stronger units (you have to recruit the weakest unit available in a given city, so can’t recruit the stronger ones until the weak ones are depleted). I was even able to kill a few monsters in the second and third rounds, getting to place some of my wizard’s towers out on the board and accumulating some gold sovereign coins. However, I started to struggle a bit in the second third of the game, often ending up in a corner of the board where there weren’t many units to recruit or monsters to fight. I thus had to spend quite a few precious actions moving around just to get to somewhere where I could do something. Then, by the second census (where players reveal how many of each of the five unit types they have in order to gain rewards), my stash of units was completely depleted. I had to spend a bit of time rebuilding my army, and during that time my opponents really made a lot of progress in the killing monsters and getting rewards department. Even though I was able to defeat a few more, I knew that I had no chance to survive in the end-game scoring.
The way Lords of Xidit’s scoring system works is that there are three criteria which players are judged on – wizard’s towers placed, gold coins received, and influence on territories, gained by having the majority of your bard tokens in a region. Each monster a player defeats grants two of these rewards, of a player’s choice. Then, the order in which the three are assessed are randomized, and at the end of the game used to progressively eliminate players until there is one winner. The first criterion eliminates the two players who score last in it (or last 1 in a four player game), the second eliminates the last place player of the three still in the running, and the last criterion eliminates one of the remaining two players. Thus, you don’t necessarily have to score first in all (or even any) of the criteria; you just have to not score low enough to be eliminated by any of them. And unfortunately for me, that’s exactly what happened with the first criterion, which in this game was influence/bard tokens. While I had managed to spread out my tokens to most of the regions, when I wasn’t paying attention, everyone else had formed majorities in all those regions! So I came in dead last and was eliminated right away. I don’t think I had a chance, though, because while I was in a strong first place for the second criterion (money), I didn’t do so well on the third one (towers) either. But Amber did and was able to pull off a win! So with that game under out belt, we moved onto…
For this one it was just Amber, Rob, and myself, since the game only plays up to 4 players, and we didn’t have that much time left (less than 90 minutes). Amber and I have played this game a lot online, so were very familiar with the mechanics even though we’d never played it in person. Rob caught on quickly, as it’s not really that complicated, and we got underway. I haven’t yet figured out what the best strategy for Stone Age is — I like to go for the civilization cards with artifacts on them, but I’m beginning to see that they’re perhaps not the best way to get a lot of points fast. Regardless, I tried going for that strategy while making a few extra workers and getting my agriculture level up as best as I could. However, I ran into some really terrible dice rolls throughout the game — if I remember correctly, once I rolled three dice and came up with a combined total of 4). Apparently rolling using the included leather dice cup was bringing me very bad luck. So there were at least two turns where I had to forfeit building a hut, otherwise I would not have been able to feed all my people and would’ve faced a 10 point penalty. In addition, we got a bit rushed towards the end due to underestimating how long it would take us to play and being distracted by some of the other gamers whose games has ended already. So we were rushing through turns in order to be done by the store’s closing time, which we did manage, but were probably making pretty suboptimal moves as we weren’t really able to think through our turns. In the end, Amber handily defeated Rob and me due to having an agriculture level of about 6 and being able to multiply that by 7 or 8 points with civilization cards. She ended up with almost 180 points, Rob came in second with nearly 125, and I was dead last again, not even cracking 100. However, I did have a lot of fun (except for the being rushed part) and have some ideas for a strategy for next time. So that was our Meetup experience for this week!