Gaming at Doug and Mimi's

Jacob and I drove the 45 minutes to Vancouver, WA for an afternoon (and evening) of gaming at Doug and Mimi's. Many of the usual suspects joined us, including Kevin Graham, Sabrina & Greg, and Kim. This is turning into a great crowd with similar interests - great personalities all around.

Take it Easy

We started with a couple of games of Take It Easy. This is a great opener - a bingo-like game that is easy to learn but has some difficult choices. The goal is to maximize the number and score for continuous segments in three different directions. Since you don't know which tiles will be called (all players are playing with the same tiles), chosing when to disrupt a potential score can be very difficult. I did pretty well in this game, winning both rounds with scores of 161 and 162. Jacob won the comeback player of the round award - he jumped from a 44 to a 132! One interesting tidbit in this game was that in the second round, at least 4 of us had identical boards through the first 6 or 7 tiles.

Airlines

At this point we split into two groups of four - Jacob, Mimi, Greg, and I played Airlines while everyone else played Industrial Waste. I've taken a liking to transportation-themed games, particularly those that involve route planning and some degree of cooperation. Airlines is the predecessor to Union Pacific, and one can easily see why this would make a good train game. I got off to a terrible start... I was unable to found a new airline in my first turn due to very poor flight cards, so right off the bat I was helping other people and hoping to gain a leg up in stock. The only reason I even stayed close for a while was a favorably timed scoring round right after I took control of one of Greg's better airlines. This was a great match, with the following round-by-round scores:

Jacob fully built out and maintained control of a major airline, and wrested control of another from Mimi towards the end, causing a huge spurt in the final scoring round to take the game.

Industrial Waste

I didn't play this one, but it looked interesting and consensus was that this is a keeper. Kevin won with Sabrina finishing second.

Java

This is one I've been itching to try for sometime. This is a beautiful game, but a bit of a brain-burner. The game is just so open - many choices each turn, and it seems to be a game where you should be spending at least as much time worrying about what your oponent will do after your turn as you do about the turn itself. I found myself maximizing my scoring opportunity only to create an even bigger opportunity for Kevin and Doug. Doug raced ahead quickly in this one through some smart play of irrigation tiles. I made some decent moves toward the end and shored up some solid end-game scoring for our larger cities, but it wasn't enough to hold off Doug. Final scores: Doug 108, Chris 100, Kevin 86.

Shortly after starting our Java game, Mimi was kind enough to serve everyone a fabulous dinner of fried rice, coconut shrimp, salad, and other goodies. As I've mentioned before, Doug and Mimi always take great care of their guests and this was no exception.

A La Carte

Someone mentioned how few games are designed for sterotypical female interests, so Doug and Mimi had to reach into their vast collection to grab a light cooking game with really cool bits.

Can't Stop

For a closer we played a couple of games of Can't Stop, the Sid Sackson classic. This was a first for me and Jacob, and we both loved it. Of course I played horribly in my one shot at this one - Doug won (he actually completed 4 lines!) and I only had two markers on the board. Don't let the dice and random elements of this game fool you - there's some real strategy in this combined with a gambling mechanic.

McMulti

Jacob and I needed to head home to get some sleep, but Doug, Mimi, and Kevin stayed on to play McMulti.

A Day at The Coast

I had to work, but Julie, Jacob, and Matthew spent most of Friday in Lincoln City, the closest coastal town to our home in Sherwood. The summer is ticking away, and Julie realized she had not yet taken the time to spend a day playing in the sand and surf. The Oregon coast is a special place unlike most in the world - it isn't a place to swim or sunbathe since the water is mostly too cold and warm sunny days are few and far between. It is a place to play and gaze at the scenic landscapes. Jacob and Matthew mostly enjoy digging in the sand, building walls, castles, moats, and burying each other. We recommend avoiding the beaches on the main highway 101 drag in Lincoln City - they tend to be overcrowded and a bit dirty. Instead head north of town, past the casino, to Road's End State Recreation Site. Of course you'll need to eat some seafood as well - your best bet is the Dory Cove Restaurant, also at Road's End. Your best bets are the clam chowder and the battered halibut.

FreshFish 0.9 Available for Download

I finally have another release of FreshFish available for download. I think this version looks quite a bit nicer (thanks to Angela for providing some updated graphics), and the usability is drastically improved. Most of the improvements though are in the underlying game engine, since I had a number of things wrong with rules, end- game, and certain game states in the previous version. I do still have a ways to go though... some other points:

  • If you don't know how to play, read the rules.
  • Scott Hanselman sat down for some pair programming with me and gave some great advice, most of which made it into this version. His most striking comment was this: "Is it a game or a business application?" This hit home... the use of status bar, menu bar, etc. does make it look too much like an office productivity tool. Expect a makeover in the next release.
  • I hope the rules are solid in this version, since I really would like to move onto networked play. Please report any issues you see.

Have fun!

Outage

For the thousands of you that check my weblog daily (OK, the 3-5 of you), you obviously noticed I was down for a while. My ISP (Stormhosts - great prices for ASP.NET hosting) had a major outage, presumably caused by the blast virus outback. In any case, I'm back.

Busy week of travel - two days in Charlotte last week, one day in San Francisco on Monday, and just got back from Phoenix tonight after a 24 hour round-trip.

Session Report: Gaming at Kevin's

I finally found some time for gaming last Saturday and spent the evening at Kevin Graham's, "connector" of all us spielfrieks here in the Portland area. I've met most of my favorite gaming folks through Kevin, and I know we all appreciate his efforts to create a fun environment and a thriving gaming community in this city.

It was a fairly small crowd this Saturday, but we had a special guest: Mike Oakes from the UK. He is in our neck of the woods for a 2 week RV tour of Oregon. Doug, Mimi, Sabrina, and Greg were also present.

Quicksand

I brought this at Kevin's request (along with Capt'n Clever and Aladdin's Dragons) and we decided it would be a nice opener. This is my second play, and I'm still not sure about this one. It is a nice opener, very light, but with 5 players (we were still waiting for Doug and Mimi) there isn't much deception involved. In Quicksand players are secretly trying to advance their adventurer to the treasure. Advancement is achieved by playing cards of the same color as an adventurer, and most of the time a player is forced to move someone else along. With 5 players only one of the tokens does not belong to a player, so bluffing is frought with disaster. I suppose there's some strategy in moving players onto the quicksand whenever possible. In this game, we all got bottlenecked at the end of the board, and Sabrina was forced to move the leader into the treasure since that was her only legal move. I don't remember who the winner was - maybe Kevin? I'll rate this one a 5.

Volldampf

Doug remembered that I had been wanting to play this gamesince trying Age of Steam and was kind enough to bring his copy of the game along. I've heard from several others that they prefer this game to the newer Age of Steam, and I can see why. Volldampf is certainly a simpler game, and it keeps the features I like most about Age of Steam (route planning and cooperation). The board routes are fixed (in AoS they are built out by players), trains can carry goods up to 6 segments from the start (in AoS you have to pay money to upgrade your engine), and there's no income reduction. We played this in about 90 minutes (including teaching) and I loved it. It helped that I won (I got very lucky with two of the final goods placements) - Doug finished a close second. I'll score this one a 9 for now.

Aladdin's Dragons

I helped Sabrina, Mike, and Kevin get started with this game - I wrote about it previously here. Kevin doesn't much like auction games, but I think he had a fun time with this one. Sabrina managed to pull out the victory, from what I here she took advantage of the spell cards.

Bang!

I talked everyone into trying a 7 player game of Bang!, which I first tried at GenCon. I don't think this game works very well with 4 players, but I absolutely love it with 7. For the second time in three games, the sheriff (Sabrina) helped dispose of the deputy. This light game is made even more fun by the social interaction and bluffing. I'll rate this one an 8.