Loofish Ramblings

My thoughts and ponderings on games and gaming, including lunch time sessions, couple and family gaming and thoughts on the games that are catching my eye.
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A Visit from a Spaceman and Some Old Friends

United States
North Carolina
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A little recap of some recent gaming.

The Spaceman of the title is my friend Mike, who will soon be taking up a post on the west coast doing some research for NASA. I knew he was way into astronomy but that is taking your hobby to the next level. Anyway, he is around for the rest of the month so I got him to come over for pizza and games.

In response to the inevitable question, he said "Teach me something new."

The game I taught was Louis XIV, Rudiger Dorn's area majority game, wherein you influence the nobles of the Sun King's court and peddle that influence into successful missions, which give you further abilities to influence and intrigue. I got a good jump on the Coats of Arms (which are single points) while keeping up with Missions (worth 5). My wife used her cards well to make sure she was placing last in most of the rounds (a clear advantage), while I never placed last. Plus things did not do well for me as the chits I got to cash in for missions did not match the missions I held. Meanwhile Mike was going gangbusters, completing a hard level mission in both first and second rounds (the missions have difficulty, with the easiest more readily assembled but with a lesser ability once complete, the hardest require a pair of particular mission chits, but give the best reward). However, things turned my way in the second half, making up ground in round 3 and indeed completing an 8th mission in the final round, while my wife and Mike managed only 7. The battle over the extra points was brief, my rather impressive income meaning no one was likely to overcome my lead at this point and this proved to be the case. Mike came in a creditable 2nd place and perhaps would have won if that start had combined with a little more experience in the game and how it all comes together.

For the second game, he wanted something he knew and it seemed appropriate to make that science-fiction related. And so Race for the Galaxy was the obvious call. Mike really loves this game, but as it has not attained universal acceptance in our group, it hasn't been played quite as much as Mike would like. So I stripped out the latter expansions, and we played the base game plus The Gathering Storm. I was Doomed World but had a good destination in hand (Distant World) and then drew into Spice world so I was trading blue goods for 7 cards. This transitioned into a diverse economy blend and a nice mix of card flow and consuming. Mike (Epsilon Eridani) too had a produce consume engine going, though he had less cards building up, he had good ones. My wife was New Sparta and got a nice effective military machine working, with the feared Improved Logistics as well, but then fared badly in finding good worlds to conquer. Rebel Base was her highlight and I don't think she double-built once. In the end, Mike's relentless produce/consume overcame my larger tableau by a combination of sheer VPs and a very nice New Economy (no 6-point development came my way that I liked). It is a funny thing, but Mike has way less plays of Race than either my wife or I but has a very good win percentage.

Saturday saw the return of HeroQuest, with me guiding my two kids through the scenarios in the book. We were up to Quest 10: Castle of Mystery (make sure you say that with appropriate spooky voice). This is a fun scenario where the characters get teleported around, facing different monsters alone rather than as a group. The look on my eldest son's face when he found the 5,000 gold he had found was not real was priceless.

I also played 2 games with my wife. One is an old friend, San Juan. While I prefer, Race for the Galaxy generally, this is good for a more relaxed game, good if you have just spent a while, to take a purely random example, tackling the 6 foot high grass in the back yard. There was a moment, which seems to come every game of San Juan now, when my wife looks at me and asks tentatively if we are playing with the Library today. Clearly, she had one and wanted to know if she could spend it without remorse. This play I looked at my hand and saw the other two Libraries and said, "let's play with them today." So we did and I'd almost forgotten how much they super-charge the game. She had good quality goods producing and selling, I had the prefecture, carpenter, quarry going - almost classic Guild Hall against City Hall. What gives City Hall the edge is the VP value of things like the Statue and Hero and though we both scored mightily, that was gave me the edge here too.

The other was a relatively new one, which I got in trade earlier this year. Homesteaders is a game I don't quite get yet. It is always such a struggle to get things done, let alone efficiently and with only 8 10 rounds you can't waste time. My wife has gotten further in this process than me though. While we both racked up debt setting things up, she got the Bank to pay it down again slowly. My River Port/Gold Mine experiment netted a lot of gold, and I didn't suffer too badly due to a lack of workers, but I did get a lot of debt and was very hampered late game in my quest to pay it down. Meanwhile, my wife was rolling in money and goods.

In a way, this is a good game for us, as she gets it better than me, so she can win (she likes winning) and I get to wrestle with the system (I like playing). We had that relationship with Caylus for a while, where I would try stuff and she would win. But eventually my experiments bore fruit (that is to say, I stopped mucking about and did what she did) and it became a lot closer.

I also wanted to mention picking up Le Havre on iOS (which makes it Le Havre (The Harbor) rather than the board game but almost the same). I love being able to rattle through a game against even 4 opponents at a rapid pace and as they are, by all accounts, about as good at the game as me (or even worse?) we all have a good time. I am also immensely impressed about how well it works on my iPod Touch's tiny screen, given how much information there is to give out in Le Havre. When I asked my wife about buying it, we both thought back to the 2 or 3 games we played in real life. Our first game (3 player) took 5 hours, which was fine even if that meant going to bed at 3am. Our second game (also 3-p), now we knew how to play it, somehow also took 5 hours. A third game (just the two of us) was shorter. But my wife's burning memory was of saying how great it would be if there was a computer taking care of all these fiddly little bits. I do wonder why she let me buy Ora et Labora and even asked to play it recently. Anyway, she liked Le Havre much better on iOS unsurprisingly, though we have to now play each other and see if that preference remains.
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