Salishan Gaming, Day 1

Last weekend I had a small group of friends out at the beach house for some gaming. This is my mostly regular gaming group, the RipCityGamers, and was an experiment of sorts. This group has a long-standing tradition of going to Doug's Sunriver house twice a year; I had the pleasure of attending the event late last spring. I offered up the beach house as an off-cycle choice and several of the core group took me up on the offer. Mike and Eric have already done some writeups on the weekend.

I drove Jacob and Dave out Thursday evening, stopping for some burgers and frosties along the way and arriving about 9:30pm. After unloading the games, I went to work installing some speakers and a receiver while Dave challenged Jacob to a Magic: the Gathering duel. They used a couple of decks I've had around for about 7-8 years with Dave winning easily.

Friday morning after canoeing we sat down for a game of Runebound. This game is holding up pretty well for us when played with three. There's no deep strategy here, but I like the role-playing element (in terms of character-buffing and collecting) and downtime has definitely decreased as we all learn the game rules. There's usually only a small amount of player interaction in the game, though in this instance Dave and I went hero vs. hero.

Dave, Jacob, and I in the loft for a game of Runebound.

Dave had a shot at defeating High Lord Margath but couldn't pull it off. After several dice rolls left me stranded in the hills, I was able to move in and defeat him myself.

Next up was Einfach Genial, the Knizia abstract released last year. I quite enjoyed this in my only prior play in Melbourne. I'm pleased they didn't try to paste a theme on this game. Teaching it is simple, scoring is simple, and I think there is probably some serious depth in strategy. Player interaction is high as there are many opportunities to block opponents to minimize their scoring opportunities in their weakest colors. Dave blew Jacob and me away; Jacob and I effectively tied with me barely winning on the fourth tiebreaker color.

We'll be simply ingenious.

Dave challenged Jacob to a chess game, winning handily but providing some good coaching along the way. It would be great if they could play more together - Dave would be a much better teacher at this point than I.

Chess near the opening.

Next, Dave brought out Station Master. This is a relatively new game that I new almost nothing about, and I was pleasantly surprised. This is a light card-game with a serious take-that element to it andit was a fun ride.

Dave and Jacob building out their trains.

Players take the role of station masters, outfitting train locomotives with cars and passengers. Cars are cards played from a player's hand, while each player has a collection of chips representing passengers. Each chip has a hidden value from 1 to 3. When a train is scored (after it fills up), players score the value of the train times their own passenger count. Sometimes the train value will be negative. There are cards that can swap cars between trains, you can put animal cars on passenger trains to spoil them, etc. Most of the strategy comes in how the passenger chips are played. Fun one and given the low price I'll probably pick up my own copy.

The last play of the day before Doug arrived late Friday afternoon was A Game of Thrones: CCG. Dave had been working on a deck so I played a weaker deck to try some real playtesting (at least I'm sticking to the story that the deck was weaker - couldn't have been my play).

Dave squares off against me in A Game of Thrones: CCG.

I like this game for its depth and for the theme - most everyone who has read the books in this series is eagerly awaiting the next one. Seeing the characters and locations come to life in the game artwork is very appealing. I held my own in this game for a while, but over time Dave was able to dominate and we eventually called the game.

Canoeing Near Siletz Bay

We finally got out into the estuary waters around Siletz Bay. Dave is out here for a group weekend with my regular group that I scheduled a while back as a mid-stream alternative to the regular Sunriver trips we make. The rest of the crowd arrives tonight.

We put in right at the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Jacob consulted the tide charts last night and our timing was great. You really need to hit it around high tide to get around.

The trees and wildlife are very cool here. This area was very damaged by sawmill runoff but is on a steady recovery.

We paddled under the 101 bridge to show Dave Siletz Bay proper. Didn't see any harbor seals this time though.

Doom First Impressions

OK, I caved in and bought Doom: the Boardgame last Friday after work. The kids have played the computer game, it is of course dripping with theme, and the light roleplaying element with a dungeon crawl is right up our alley.

Matthew and Jacob played the marines in the first scenario - I handled the invaders. It was rough going for the marines - they didn't even make it to the final room before I accumulated 6 frag points.

The game is well designed for what it is. The combat system is easy to learn and reflects the computer game very well - ammo can be scarce and the respawn after death feature keeps everyone in the game. Teamwork is necessary to win - this game is tough on the marines (maybe too tough). My favorite aspect is the roleplaying element combined with the variable marine configuration via card draw. This can lead to different strategies for individual players and the team as a whole.

So far so good with this game - I hope to get it out again next weekend with a larger (and different) group to see how it plays with 4.

Anno 1503, Hansa, Samurai, and more

I've managed to attend a few different gaming sessions over the past 10 days. Two Saturdays ago Jacob and I traveled to Vancouver to attend a game day at Doug & Mimi's - our first time there in quite a long while. As always their hospitality was first rate - swedish meatballs, good wine (OK, I brought the wine), and great company.

I jumped on the opportunity to play Anno 1503, a title I've wanted to play for a while. Opinions are certainly split on this game (it has a relatively low BGG rating of 6.63 right now), and while it was enjoyable I doubt this is a game I would ask to play very often.

Tyler, Doug, Jacob and I play Anno 1503. The board in the middle represents only a small portion of the game (island exploration) - most of the action occurs in each players' individual area.

Some have classified this game as multiplayer solitaire, but I think that's a bit harsh. There was plenty of player interaction (dialog, tradeoff discussions) - much more than in the St. Petersburg game that followed. I just didn't see much that was new or interesting in the game. I would much rather play a new Settlers scenario if I want a resource acquisition / building game (and Settlers has trading - Anno does not), or Entdecker if I want to play an exploration game.

Another group decided to play the new crayon rail game Russian Rails. I jokingly commented 'see you in 6 hours,' which turned out to be not far from the truth as they were still playing when Jacob and I left 5 hours later.

Jacob and I finished the evening with a game of St. Petersburg with two folks we'd never met before (and I forgot to write down their names! one of you reads this weblog, so please write your name in a comment to me). This was a four-player game with three fairly seasoned players plus Jacob - he is still learning the ropes to this game and it can be a rough ride when you are playing with players with experience.

St. Petersburg was our final game of the evening.

That was it for Saturday. The following Thursday evening I was in the Tigard/Beaverton area for a district scouting meeting, so I stopped by Mike's place for my gaming group's Die Hard Thursday event. Tim was also there and my arrival was timed well. I suggested Hansa, the game of trading and merchants of the Hansiatic League. A fairly dry (surprise) game, but I found it to be quite unique and fun. It played quickly and I would like to see this played more in our group.

Tim, Mike, and I playing Hansa.

There's a real arc to this game and Tim played well, transitioning to populating as many merchants in cities as he could towards the end of the game. Mike and I caught on a bit late but were able to close the gap and tighten up the game. I finished second to Tim a couple of points behind, I think Mike was one point behind me.

Next up was what is quickly becoming my favorite trick-taking card game, Die Sieben Siegel. I played my best game so far, winning by a relatively large margin. I'm not sure this is a great three-player game, but we did have fun. I think it is probably quite a bit more chaotic this way as it can be difficult to assess hand strength when one player chooses to be the traitor.

We finished the evening playing the Steven Segal game.

The next Friday was our weekly gaming session at work. Eric Landes and I decided to start this a while back and we are starting to promote it a bit more. We have new tenants sub-leasing space at our corporate HQ and, as they share the cafe with us, we thought it made sense to publicize what we are doing and make folks feel welcome joining us. We'll see if attendance picks up beyond the 4-5 regulars we have now. Eric did a nice promotional flyer for us:

Last Friday we brought out the Knizia classic Samurai, one of the first games I picked up after re-entering the gaming world two years ago. This game is extremely easy to teach and learn but has some great depth. Arron enjoyed the game enough that he went out and bought his own copy at Rainy Day Games. I was the winner in a close final showdown with Jason.