My friend Mike Garrett (aka the Fonz, so as not to be confused with the other Mike G), was in town for the weekend with his fiance Amy Jo Schafer. Mike is a gaming buddy from Omaha, so I was looking forward to some decent gaming over the weekend as well as getting to spend time with Amy and my wife. At any rate, Friday morning (Jan, 29, 2009) started out with my teaching Mike and Amy Galaxy Trucker. Now, I'm no expert at this, but playing a couple of times and against slower new players really helps! That is not to say I won (I did not), but my ships were much much better. I still was last to finish, but my ships were much better in terms of having things I needed. We cut our game short after two rounds so my wife and Amy could go do something less interesting than playing games. Mike was ahead at that point, so we declared him the winner.
After that, I pulled out A Game of Thrones: LCG for us to give a whirl. Only after the first turn did I realize that you don't pick offices when playing head-to-head, so I was glad to catch that early on. Mike had grabbed Lannister and I randomly grabbed the Starks. The Stark deck is nasty and I put a hurt on those Lannisters (which would not be the first time I saw Lannister go down this day). Though interesting, I think this game is much more interesting with multiple players. The options and timing of things seems like it just is better.
Fast forward to that evening at the Gamer's Inn. Knowing Mike would want to play, I had arranged for us to play A Game of Thrones (the real game) with Matthew Frederick, Amelia Boli, Noah Antwiller and Nathan Winchester. Noah had setup for us ahead of time, so all we had to do was decide on our options. We went with the Storm of Swords Westeros cards, The Clash of Kings house cards, and ports. Now, before we had arrived, Mike had declared if he was house Greyjoy, he'd be able to win in 4 turns. As it turns out, he was Greyjoy. He was also entrenched between Nathan (Lannister) and I (Stark). He did put a good squeeze on Lannister immediately, but I was able to keep him in check to the north. Sadly, that was about all I was able to do. Noah (Martel) came after Amelia (Baratheon) early and looked like he was in the lead. However, Matthew (Tyrell) punished Noah and without any real resistance from Lannister, was able to win on turn 6.
With the early win, we were able to get some more gaming in! Mike had suggested Union Pacific, so I had brought it along, knowing Matthew liked it. Amelia left us to play Scepter of Zavandor, so it was Matthew, Noah, Nathan, Mike and I. We played with unlimited UP stock, but I realized again why I don't prefer this game over similar games like Chicago Express. The reason? Lack of control. Matthew got an early lead by playing the sole stock in one company. By playing 5 trains to it, he pulled down 9 income(VPs) a turn twice while we were all sharing 2-4 incomes (plus his other income). Noah also had a monopoly and was also able to get in on Matthew's action later in the game. I never had a draw at anything solo nor anything that was making serious enough cash. I went for loads of UP and managed a couple of firsts in the last two payouts to pull me out of last (barely) and into third. Noah won with 110, Matthew 98, Me 90, Mike 89, Nathan 80. As I explained - Matthew only had to play 5 trains to make income of 9 a turn for his monopoly. To make that same amount, I'd have to have equal shares in a company with someone else, and we'd have to play 17 combined trains - obviously putting us at a disadvantage. Since the stock you will have access to in the start of the game is done by random draw, you basically have to guess correctly at the start of the game what will come out and what other people will play. That's strike one. The next strike is that you only have the ability to attack the leader(s) if you are lucky enough to have sufficient access to their stock. If the remainder of their stock is at the bottom of the deck, or comes up after you play, there is nothing you can do about it. For the length of this game, these flaws probably keep this on the shelf for me. If I hadn't actually worked for Union Pacific, I'd probably trade the game as i really think I prefer Wabash.
Apparently we hadn't gotten out our need to play Alan Moon train themed games, as we pulled Ticket To Ride out. I suggested this as something 5 of us could play with reasonable speed while we waited for Steve, Amelia and Greg to finish their game. This was new to Nathan, but the rest of us dove into the vanilla version of the game (indeed, playing pretty quickly). I went for the "Sato" strategy (draw cards until you are forced to claim a route) and at one point had about as many cards in my hand as there were left in the deck. Matthew was all over grabbing routes in the middle of the map with Noah and I didn't grab a route until Nathan started taking west coast routes. Of course, by the time I was in play, I was behind and my last ditch attempt at drawing tickets cost me a lot of points. I also mis-played the last turn and was one round short of finishing another ticket. Final tally: Matthew-77, Noah, 101, Nathan 105, Mike-85, Charles-77.
We finished the night with a group party game. Steve had the new version of Time's Up!, Time's Up - Title Recall. I was teamed with Dan Brugman, Steve Bauer and Greg Perschbacher were a team, Matthew and Amelia played together, and Mike and Noah were the last team. Roughly speaking, in Title Recall the cards have books, movies, songs, and tv shows. We had a pretty good time, with a number of cards that people just didn't know. I have never read, nor know nothing about Watership Down, which about half the group didn't either (this is important later). We also had to sing Stand By your Man for Amelia. I'm nearly positive that those of us familiar with the song only knew it from the Blues Brothers. I had also thrown in the classic John Denver song - Thank God I'm a Country BoyWhich NOBODY seeemed to know - it caused fits the whole game. Well, the game was good for a number of laughs and in the end I Matthew and Amelia won 34-29(Mike+Noah)-26(Dan+Charles)-31(Steve+Greg).
Saturday continued the fun. I had some (mostly non-gamer) friends over for dinner and after we ate, we played some party games. We started with Cluzzle and then finished with Time's Up!. Cluzzle was modeled after the 1988 Spiel des Jahres winner - Barbarossa. Basically, players have clay and make a thing then other players try to guess the object. You want to get guessed, but not until after a couple rounds of players trying to figure out what you made. I'm apparently terrible at art, and wasn't getting guessed at all. The picture here is of Amy and her "Ostrich", which is obvious once I tell you that, however it was less obvious from here answers to questions like, "Is it a bird?" - to which we were not told "Yes". Guessing things is much harder when the answers are ambiguous (which killed me and my anemone looking eyelash).
Not actually owning Time's Up, we got out index cards and everyone wrote out a couple songs, movies, books and TV shows. We had one duplicate song - Don't Fear the Reaper and someone (not Mike or I) threw in Watership Down. When the clue was being given for this, Mike and did a double take at each other - a strange little moment given that we didn't know it from the previous night, yet knew from the "bloody rabbits" clue what the book was instantly. And, one official apology to my wife for not getting "The Office" despite her walking to the doorway of MY OFFICE and pointing in during the last round. I suck.
Sunday was Mike and Amy's last day with us before heading home and we got a couple last minutes games in with my kids. Mike, Ashton, Ainsley, and I got in a game of Tier auf Tier (Animal on Animal). This is a light little dexterity game that should favor children, but doesn't favor my son who pretty much haphazardly throws his animals on top of the pile. My timid daughter carefully placed her way to the win here.
We followed that game with Eureka, which is a Ravensburger family game where your prospector is trying to find gold and avoid the bandits before the train arrives in town. Mostly, its a little press your luck game which my son seems to enjoy. I got on a lucky streak of large gold finds and the train came in quickly letting me win with 40 points. Mike had 19 and my son had 13 after encountering the wrong bandits. A long weekend of gaming indeed!