Friday March 7, 2008 - Game Shoppe
I headed out to the Game Shoppe for some Friday night games. My wife and a friend of hers from work planned to get a bite to eat, then join us, so I brought mostly lighter fare this week. When I got there, Mike Garrett was finishing a sandwich, and Mike Spoto was there waiting to see who would drop in. Ron Chapman came by, so we elected to start the night with some Race For the Galaxy. I started with a production world, and try to get an engine for prod going, but couldn't get any synergy towards that end - in fact, after getting my second world down, I had 6 development cards (none good) in my hand. I churned out enough VPs for third to Mike G's double 6 military world build. I elected for something short then so that we wouldn't be in the middle of a longer game when my wife got there, so I pulled out Exxtra for our next game. I like this little push your luck game as a filler. This game was pretty straight forward, and there wasn't much hosing of each other as a lot of X's came out. Ron and I were looking like it would be close, but Mike G pulled out a win. Mike continued his winning streak as we moved on to No Thanks!. Ron hadn't played before, and looked like he was going to steal a win, but Mike G had a pile of chips that put his score at like 9. Ron wanted to try it again, and while things played a bit differently, the results were the same.
My wife, Stephanie, had arrived with her friend Amy Jo Schafer, so Mike started the 6 of us off Heimlich and Co. This was the Spiel des Jahres winner in 1986 (which is apparently the year the Germans decided that the more the theme is tacked on, the more likely the game is to win the Spiel des Jahres). So, this isn't a bad game, but the whole spy theme is not at all important (or interesting). Basically, there are a number of colored pawns. Each player is given a color in secret. On your turn you roll a dice and may move any pawn(s) the total on the die (roll a 4, move 1 guy 4, or 2 guys 2, or 4 guys 1, etc) around the scoring zone. When a pawn hits the scoring marker, all pawns score the amount of wherever they are. When the total scores reach a certain point, everyone writes down a guess as to who is which color. When a few more points are scored, the guesses are revealed, and you get a bonus for being correct. Well, Mike G won. He scored two correct guesses that put him well out in front. Mike S and my wife both didn't even look to see what color they were - which is all well and good, but meant they weren't playing to win (unless by chance). This type of game is ok, but you really is more fun if everyone is trying. Its a bit like Edel Stein and Reich - you can certainly just randomly pick your action, but then the point of trying to figure out what the other guys are doing is truly pointless. Apparently we hadn't had enough of "guess the other player's action" as we then played Incan Gold - a group type press your luck against the other players. I hadn't played this (or Diamant), so was interested, and found a nice little game. I finally pulled out a win in something, stopping the Mike G win streak, but it was close - Ron hadn't taken any gems and was in the temple by himself at the end. He felt he needed one more take to win the game (which he did), but he pulled a disaster to finish with nada. The group then wanted to try out TransAmerica, which I knew nothing about nor had ever seen played. This turned out to be a decent game, but one I think it is best with 5-6 players (it evens out the chance of being really screwed by the route). This one was fun, and I think that Mike S won this one. My wife and Amy had to work in the morning and were getting ready to bow out, but we talked them in to trying Ca$h and Gun$. I've conceded to Mike G's pressure to raise my rating (I moved it to a 7.1 since I keep asking for it), but despite my having fun with this, I think this one is going to fall off my radar for a bit here. Its light and can be fun to be sure, but its not an every week game. After the girls left, we pulled out Wabash Cannonball. Mike G returned to form and killed us with a runaway win. He basically had his hand in all the railroads and then sat back and let everyone help him. I would have liked to have done something about this, but I got yellow too cheaply to start the game, and then was in a bad position to win shares of other rails and couldn't get more cash into yellow. Since nobody else would ever capitalize (there is a serious group think issue here), I struggled to catch Mike. As I saw it, nobody else was willing to dilute Mike's position in all the companies. Since he was splitting cash with EVERYONE, his positions needed to be cut to a 1/3 at best. This game is good, but like Puerto Rico, is probably best with people that have played this about the same number of times, as it takes a couple playings to start to see how to work the systems. To finish the night, Mike S pulled out one I had heard of but not played - Escalation!. This is a Knizia card game that is along the lines of Poison in that you try to get rid of your cards while taking as few as possible. Each round you play a card or set of cards. The next card or cards must total (face value) more than the previous play. If you cannot, you take the pile. Pretty straight forward. Mike G thought so as he seemed to enjoy taking the cards hand after hand. Mike G must have used up his winning karma, because he was so far out of the lead that we all had a good laugh. The game was fast, so we played one more, and Mike G's luck failed to change one bit. Though I can't remember the winner of the first game, I did finish the night winning by just a couple points over Ron.