Last week our annual vacation to Keuka Lake finished (perhaps I'll post a few more pictures this weekend), so we are gradually working ourselves back to some degree of normalcy. It was a busy weekend however, as our Cub Scout pack was running the dunk tank at the local Robin Hood Festival here in Sherwood. This is a decent fundraiser for the pack (usually nets about $500), but there's a ton of work to set up, run, and tear down the tank. Sunday was a particularly long but fun day, starting with the annual Corillian golf scramble. My team did well, tying for the best score at-8 but losing in the tiebreaker. After the tourney I joined a few other folks from scouts to tear down the tank and return it to storage. I thought my day would be over at that point (around 4:30pm), but Ken Rude called up asking if we were up for some gaming how could I resist?
I've come to enjoy this light trick-taking game quite a bit, and so is the family. It came out twice while we were at Keuka Lake and was a big hit. So Ken, Brandon, Jacob, Matthew and I started things off with full game. This game is fun if you don't think and try too much poor hands can be very frustrating and can set you up for a certain loss very early in the game. This is because recovery is so difficult the most you can gain on a given hand is 10 points, while it isn't unheard of to get set-30 or-40 points on a hand. I know if the game is played well this shouldn't happen, but I've been trapped in a hand before where it became nearly impossible to dump high cards. For example, if you are holding a large chunk of the high value green cards and are unable to capture the lead, you may never get an opportunity to dump them. Still, this game is easy to teach, is a great introduction to trick-taking card games, and is always fun to play.
Matthew has been begging for this game to come out, and Ken and Brandon agreed as they had never played before. I'm not wild about the game, but had been looking forward to playing with more than 4 players. In case you aren't familiar with the game, I'll give a brief overview. Each player plays the role of an English lord obsessed with showing off their antique collections. The game plays quickly and has very few decisions. Each player is dealt 4 antique cards at random, with each antique having an identifying letter (from A to G I believe). An antique collection must consist of a consecutive run of letters (e.g., AABC). On a turn, players first choose where they want to go: the Auction House (to buy more antiques) or the Castle (to show off their exhibits). Players reveal their choices. Those that chose the auction house then decide to bid on one of two pieces up for auction with cash, or play a thief to steal from the till. The player with the highest bid wins the auction and chooses one of the two items up for auction to add to his collection. If a single player played a thief, she steals the cash used to pay for the auction. If more than one player played a thief, or if nobody bid on the auction, nobody steals anything.
Those that chose the castle have similar choices: exhibit, play a thief, or play a detective. Of the players that exhibit, the best two exhibits will advance on the scoring track. Each of the thieves played get to steal an antique from each of the players that exhibited. If any thieves were played, and at least one detective is played, the thieves will go to jail and be unavailable. The detectives also advance along the scoring track based on their current position (5th place advances 5, 1st advances 1, you get the picture).
That's it not much strategy involved, and this is mostly a rock-paper scissors type guessing game. I've heard of people being very good at this game, but for me I think the random approach would almost be the best strategy. I just have a habit of making the wrong guess. Somehow in this game, though, I managed to come from behind and win the game, with Ken finishing a close second. I didn't expect to have much fun, but I was pleasantly surprised and would play again with 5 or 6 players.
The kids went upstairs to play on the computer, so Ken and I brought out my new copy of Memoir '44, the fantastic two-player tactical wargame by Richard Borg. We played scenario 8 Operation Cobra. I played the Allies, Ken the Axis, and we found the scenario to be pretty balanced. My feelings on the quality of this game haven't dimished this is a fantastic light two-player wargame.
I got a bit too aggressive early on with two of my tank units and almost gave up the game, but I was able to regroup and reinforce on my right flank. I pulled ahead 4 medals to 2 when Ken played an airstrike command card and wiped out two of my infantry units, pulling the Germans even at 4-4. Luckily, I had just drawn my own artillary strike command card and was able to destroy another of his units to pull out the victory. There was lots of tension in the game, as well as some frustration at the card draw. The Axis player is short handed unit and card-wise, but Ken played it smart and stayed put most of the game waiting for me to advance. I look forward to playing more scenarios.
Tonight, we had a rare evening free so it was time for some family gaming. Julie wanted to join us and I wanted to try something new (and unplayed), so I pulled out La Strada. I hadn't read the rules before, but this game is easy enough to learn on the spot. This game plays very quickly I would compare it to Transamerica (which I also like) with a bit more strategy and challenge. I'm curious to see how player order affects the outcome of the game in the long run (the first player appears to have a distinct advantage), but win or lose everyone had a good time. Julie and I tied with 24 points each, I won the resource tiebreaker. Matthew was third with 20, Jacob 19.
Jacob, Matthew, and I then brought out Tongiaki. After a quick rules refresher, we were off and running. Matthew plays this game in an interesting way: he gets very focused on sailing to new islands at any cost, often abandoning islands to his opponents. I guess he needs to work on his strategy a bit, but everyone still had fun. Final scores: Chris 30, Jacob 27, Matthew 13.