J. R. Tracy
We had a surprising baker's dozen tonight, pushing dreams of wargaming off the table in favor of cardgames and crowd-friendly euros and Ameritrash.
A pair of Dolans traveled into town from bear country, and Dan VIII opened things up with The Resistance, essentially an espionage-themed Werewolf variant. The table represents a resistance cell launching missions against an oppressive regime. However, some players are actually double agents working to subvert the missions and undermine the cell. Like the lycanthropes of Werewolf, the double agents are revealed to each other before the start of play. The cell must successfully complete three of five missions to win, otherwise the double agents win. In our table of ten, we had six loyal members and four double agents.
Jim the Spy plots his deceit
Each mission, the leader (randomly determined at the outset, then rotating around the table) nominates a team, and the table votes to approve or reject the members. The teams grow progressively larger mission by mission. A majority vote is needed to approve a team, otherwise the leadership role passes and a new team must be nominated. Obviously the loyal members are trying for 100% loyal teams while the double agents are trying to infiltrate one of their own into the action. Once a team is set, the team members then vote to see if the mission succeeds or fails; a single 'fail' vote is enough to sink the endeavor. The votes allow players to make some educated guesses on player loyalty, and a few special power cards are distributed during the game to also help the loyal team members suss out the traitors.
Bad guy good guy bad guy good guy good guy
In our game, the double agents proved to be a little too clever for their own good. Two were selected for the first mission, and both went along with the loyal member in order to maintain cover and perhaps disrupt missions down the stretch. A different double agent went on the second mission, but he too kept quiet and allowed it to succeed. With two missions in hand and only one success needed in the final three, the loyal members cruised to victory. This is a fun, fast game, with a good paranoid atmosphere and some interesting logic puzzles - good value for a 45 minute filler.
Meanwhile, Scott led a teaching seminar of Android: Netrunner with Natus, Mark, and Sean. Nate and Mark had played the previous version and Sean is an experienced cardgamer, so they were off and running without much trouble. They played four games between them, with The Corporation taking all four. I think it was a success, and everyone has enough of a feel for the game to start building their own decks.
Corporations vs Runners
Next up, Dan VIII introduced Panic on Wall Street!, a real estate themed bidding game reminiscent of Pit. Players are divided into merchants and landlords. The merchants bid on leases from the landlords in a timed open-outcry auction, and then collect revenue from the properties they hold. However, the properties have a merely indicative revenue value during bidding; afterward, the true revenue is determined by die roll. The properties are divided into four classes (by color) with a wide range of volatility. A middling property might suddenly generate a windfall, while a seemingly steady property could prove to be a liability. After the merchants collect their revenues, they pay off the leases for the year. The landlords pay their taxes (a fixed amount per property) and then have an auction of their own, as new parcels come to market. This proceeds for five turns (years) until winners are determined, one each from the landlords and the merchants.
Money changes hands, dreams are destroyed
I proved to be pretty terrible at it, which is a bit ironic since I used to make a decent living in the pits of the Chicago Board of Trade. In the first game, Brother Leon won out through conservative bidding, dropping out and biding his time when his giddy rivals bid properties well past reasonable values.
GorGor took the landlord crown with a diversified property portfolio and by generally avoiding leasing to deadbeats such as myself Jim took the landlord crown in the first game thanks in part to collecting a chunk of my income due to a lien against my earnings <thanks Jim for the correction>. In the second game, Dan IX aggressively negotiated package deals as a merchant, locking up blocks of lots early in the bidding. He made many of these deals with Brother Leon, who looked to be in pretty good shape, especially when Conrad was left holding the bag after another one of my fiscal misadventures. However, Dan VIII ended up king of the landlords, despite a massive tax burden, thanks mainly to some lucky valuation rolls down the stretch. We all enjoyed the game - it is a good mix of judicious valuation and naked speculation, with enough chaos (thanks to the timed bidding rounds) to prevent tedious and time-consuming min-maxing.
Next, Dan VIII taught Smash Up, a funky variation on area control with a whiff of Blood Bowl: Team Manager. Each player has a hybrid deck of two factions, each of which is broken out into minions and actions. The board itself consists of 'base' cards, which are the areas in play. Each base card has a conquer value plus three victory point values for first, second, and third place. As soon as the total values of all the minions placed on a base equals or exceeds its conquered value, it is resolved, with the player contributing the most points getting the first place VPs, etc. Each turn a player plays a minion and an action, though every card has a special ability and many allow an extra cardplay or two. Play proceeds until someone hits fifteen VPs.
I had a zombie/leprechaun combo ("Brains! They're magically delicious!") which let me raid my discard pile for resources and gave me a little mischievous magic to boot. However, Bill's unkillable robots and Scott's pokey ninjas were too much to handle - I couldn't get rid of the former and the latter kept jumping in just as bases were resolved to upset the scoring. Meanwhile, Campoverdi's wizards kept chucking my minions off the board and into my graveyard - not the worst thing for a zombie but it still cost me time and effort. Bill pulled out the victory, with Scott a close second, and Campo a few points behind. I enjoyed it, especially the asymmetry across factions and the ability to build powerful combinations. Campo still prefers BB:TM but I think this is a solid alternative.
Minions at work
Finally, Sean paired up with Jim to run the zombies in Timber Peak, with Dan IX, Brother Leon, GorGor, and Mark handling the humans. I didn't see much of the game but I heard the howls of despair from the humans. Mark had a good run with his shotgun but there weren't many other highlights for the humans - a lack of gasoline kept them from killing zombies in bunches, a requirement for hero success. So, the flame of human existence flickered and died for the second time in three weeks.
Another rough night for the human race
A great gaming session to lead into Thanksgiving - enjoy your turkey, everybody, and see you next week!