Recent Gaming: A Few Acres of Snow, Filthy Rich, and Power Grid: the First Sparks

A Few Acres of Snow with Ken

I've had some great, though infrequent, gaming sessions lately. Ken and I were able to play back-to-back games of A Few Acres of Snow, the deck building war game about the French and British conflict in North America. My first play with Jacob earlier this year was a struggle because of the breadth of actions available to each player -- huge surface area of possibilities to explore which often left us scratching our heads.

In our first game I played the Brits, Ken the French. We had almost no direct conflict and focused on settling with periodic raids, just about all of which were blocked. The game ended when the British exhausted their settlement bits and I squeaked out a 1 or 2 point victory. The game lasted longer than I think it should - probably 3 or more hours. Still, we had fun learning the ropes and came away with ideas on how to approach the game differently next time around.

We switched sides in our second game and I came out very aggressively as the French, laying siege along the British northern sea ports whenever possible. We had some very drawn out battles (you can see how many cards ended up locked in a siege in the photo above) but in just about every case I was able to keep Ken on the defensive and often win settlement pieces from him (VPs!). We played the game longer than we needed to as we forgot that if a player captures 12 VP worth of enemy bits then he wins. I did, and I did -- actually I think I had 16 VP before we discovered our mistake. I'm sure Ken is brushing up on his strategy ideas for our next go.

Filthy Rich

Last Friday Matthew and I pulled out one of the unplayed games in my collection: Filthy Rich designed by Richard Garfield. We played with the supposedly required variant where one the first "tax" die roll is used and subsequent ones are ignored. This is a fun if a bit wacky and chaotic game. I think it dragged on a bit longer than needed with a known outcome (I had lucky die rolls against Matthew, a rare occurrence). This is a very innovative design with the game being played in a binder with plastic card sleeve pages (imagine a book holding baseball cards).

Power Grid - First Sparks

Last night I hosted my game group game night and tried out Power Grid: the First Sparks. This is supposedly an easier, streamlined version of the original Power Grid, but I'm not sure I agree. While it takes away the auction mechanic, which can be imposing for new players, the mechanics surrounding the variable game board complicate things beyond the original Power Grid. I didn't get the feel that this has the same compelling market tension as the original and can't imagine wanting to play this instead. Even when teaching new gamers!

Spring Break in DC, NYC, and college visits

We took a family trip to the east coast -- Washington DC and New York City -- for a mix of tourism and college visits.

Julie and boys at WWII memorial

The weather started off ideal - 70s as we landed at BWI and took the train into DC. Knowing the weather would only decline throughout the week, after checking into the hotel and a burger at Good Stuff Eatery we proceeded directly to the Washington Monument for a night-time tour of the monuments. This included stops at two monuments I'd never seen before - the MLK and FDR monuments. We probably walked for 5 miles total but it was worth it so see the beautiful lights and sites.

Bell ringers at National Cathedral

Julie arranged for a tower climb at the National Cathedral. This is a rare treat, especially since it was damaged in the earthquake last year. The big surprise was being able to watch the bell ringers. Made up for the grey skies, rain, and fog.

On Saturday afternoon we took the White House tour. We felt lucky to get tickets, but not so lucky after the fact given how unimpressive it was.

Inspecting the rifle

Sunday took us to Arlington National Cemetery with spectacular views of the city and the always meaningful changing of the guard. We were also treated to two special wreath ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

US Capitol

On Monday we toured the legislative and judicial branches with a tour of the capitol and a stroll through the US Supreme Court building. Timing couldn't have been better as this was the first day of arguments on the health care reform bill. Needless to say there was plenty of activity on the steps of the courthouse.

Steps of Supreme Court during healthcare arguments

Unfortunately we missed Santorum, Bachman, and a few other celebrities (?) but there was no shortage of protesting and lively discussion.

The next two days of our trip saw us visiting Princeton and Yale. We rented a car at Reagan National and drove to Princeton, NJ on Tuesday. The campus was a pure treat for both boys, partly because of our student tour guide. Jacob could see himself at Princeton but he's hoping to do Air Force or Navy ROTC and neither are offered on campus.

Enjoying pizza at BAR in New Haven

On Wednesday we drove to New Haven for a visit to Yale. The campus has a very different feel than Princeton -- much more urban and integrated with the surrounding city. The residential colleges at Yale complement the urban feel by creating a series of mini self-contained communities.

Before driving to NYC we enjoyed some classic New Haven style pizza at BAR.

9/11 Memorial

Our trip to NYC was memorable. We started with a visit to the new 9/11 memorial and tour of the financial district. The weather was quite chilly but at least the rains mostly stayed away as we took the ferry to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

Lady Liberty

On Friday we toured the campus of Columbia, which rose to the top or near the top of Jacob's short list of wish schools. A big part of the appeal is the Manhattan location -- Jacob is just a bit enamored with the big city. Surprisingly the campus feels much less urban than Yale's.

Oh, and we saw two Broadway musicals: Once and Jersey Boys. We hadn't planned to see any shows (boys were disinterested) but staying in Times Square and seeing the theaters changed their minds. We also went to a Knicks game and both boys commented after that they would have rather seen another show.

Strolling in Chinatown

Our last day was spent strolling around Chinatown and other parts of the lower east side with good college friends. We had great walking tour guides of the old tenements and other notable immigrant sites in the area.