August 5, 2005

Ed's Gulf Games Report - Part 1

by Ed Rozmiarek

New Orleans

Gulf Games 16 was held in downtown New Orleans. Quite a change from the previous ones we had attended. The hotel was much bigger and there were many more non-Gulf Gamers staying there. We ran into several inline hockey teams there for a Junior Olympic competition. There were teams from Canada, New Zealand and Australia. There were also a large number of people there for a Christian fellowship conference and even some people that were in town filming a movie. All in all, it made for a crowded hotel, with long waits at times for the elevator and other inconveniences. However, the gaming area was very nice (and that was the main reason for being there). It was large with plenty of gaming tables. The room looked out onto the rooftop swimming pool (handy when Kevin wanted to go swimming) and the windows let in a good amount of natural light.

New Orleans itself was interesting but not something I would call ďfamily friendlyĒ. The downtown area seemed geared more towards adult aged entertainment with the partying, Bourbon Street and the casino. Walking down the main street you are greeted with stores displaying t-shirts in the front window that had profanity (including the ďFĒ word). Iím not a prude and have no objection to that being in the store, just donít display it so that my pre-teen children can easily see it by just walking by. Given that Gulf Games is geared towards families, I was a little surprised at the location. However, as I said earlier, we were there to game, and game we did, and we highly enjoyed that part of the trip.

Before we get to the game write-ups, let me make a couple of general comments. First, Iím not going spend a lot of time writing up game play mechanisms as you can read about that elsewhere, like the Boardgamegeek. Second, although Susan and I donít make an effort to either play games together or intentionally play in different games, we tend to play about one third of our games together at Gulf Games. So if you read Susanís reports, you will see some repeats here, but maybe a different view of the events.


Der Untergang von Pompeji

We were tired after 10 hours on the road and moving stuff to our room, but it wasnít hard for Greg Schloesser to get us into a game. We wanted something light and not too long and he suggested Pompeji. Not having played it and interested in trying it, we sat down and even got Kevin to join in. When Michael Labranche wandered by, Greg gave up his seat and just facilitated our game by teaching the rules. The game was just about right for our needs, not being too taxing or too long. There were some decent decisions to be made during the first round of people placement and then the ďrunning for your life stageĒ had me wanting to move more people than allowed. A nice solid family game and would pass my lunch time game criteria (easy to teach and play within 45-60 minutes). Itís suppose to be coming out in English later this year from Mayfair and we will probably pick up a copy then. Susan won the game easily but there was a three way tie for second which was won by Kevin on the tie-breaker (having the most(?) people in the volcano).

We didnít play any games on Tuesday as that was our sight-seeing day and the group dinner at Mulates, a local Cajun restaurant.



A bright and sort of early start on Wednesday found me in the game room around 10:00. I found a game of Boomtown being setup and jumped into it. Everyone knew the rules and we got right to it. The first two rounds found my mines paying off each time giving me a minor boost in early capital, however it also made me an target for a couple of early dynamite cards which kept me from getting the first couple of mayors. I had to shift to a more conservative bidding strategy to build up some cash. I was able to slip under the radar for the rest of the game but was never able to catch up to Michael Adams who had collected several good payouts and a couple of mayors. The other players in our game were Scott Tullis, Jay Bloodworth and Craig Berg.

Verflixxt! / That's Life

I wandered over to watch Shea finish up a game of Verflixxt! (coming soon as Thatís Life from Rio Grande Games). This is a very easy ďroll and moveĒ but still with some decent tactical decisions to be made. After Sheaís game finished up, Greg Schloesser asked if we wanted to play and then reset the game and joined Susan, Shea, Michael Adams and myself to play. Iím sure my group at home will call this game ďflawedĒ since it has a die in it, but I found the game very fun. Yes, your fate is controlled by a die, but the opportunity to move the guardian pieces to either help yourself or hurt an opponent adds enough to the game to make the decisions non-trivial. Also, like backgammon, sometimes you have to play the odds and set yourself up to take advantage of the different die rolls. We liked the game enough that we picked up an English copy from Ward Batty when he got some in later in the week.


One of the interesting and fun things about Gulf Games is that you get pulled into kids' games that you would probably never play at home. This was one of those instances as little Claire Tullis asked if I wanted to play a game of Zigity. Zigity is an Uno like card game from the makers of Cranium. In this game, the object is to get rid of your hand of cards by playing sets of cards that add to 11, spell a word, complete the puzzle, or match musical instruments. The cards have four different symbols, one in each corner, and an action in the middle. What you need to do on you turn is based on the top card in the discard stack. So on your turn you either play a set of cards to the discard pile or draw a card. First one out of cards wins.

You never know how long one of these games will go as it can be short, long or somewhere in between. This was a short one, very short. On the second round, Shea who to my right, played a set that made the action ďmatch a drum setĒ. Well, it turns out that my hand was made up of about five cards with drum sets and two wild cards. So, I was able to lay down my entire hand of 7 or so cards and go out. Game over. One other comment is that Zigity has clear plastic cards. Kind of cool but Iím not sure if they would cause any game play issues with making the cards in the discard deck hard read or giving away information to other players.


I got to jump into a game of Ubongo, another game I really wanted to try. From the description and early reports, I thought I would like this game and I did. Timed spatial problem solving, right up my alley. I played with Cheryl Tullis, her daughter Amanda (both of which had played before) and Kevin. The game never clicked with Kevin who struggled with the placements, but the game turned out to be a close three way battle between me and the Tullis women. In fact, the game turned out to be a three way tie at the end which I won on the tie-breaker. The game definitely moved onto my buy list (and Iím now kicking myself for not adding it to our recent group Adam Spielt order). Ubongo seemed fairly popular during the week as I saw it played many other times.

Rio Grande Prototype 1

Next up was a prototype from Rio Grande Games. This was the second summer Gulf Games in a row that Jay Tummelson from Rio Grande has been able to attend. Both times he has brought prototypes to test. I canít give any details but I did enjoy this one and it seemed fairly solid, game play wise. There was some discussion about end game scoring between Joe Huber and Jay, but I think this one will see the light at the end of the tunnel and get published.

Piranha Pedro

Next up Jay pulled out Piranha Pedro, a game that was published last year but never made a big splash as there was never an English version published (although the components are language independent) but there is a version on BrettSpielWelt. Jay was evaluating it for a possible English version (sorry, he gave no information on his plans, but in my opinion, it appeared that he was not impressed with the physical quality of the game). I had played the game several times on BSW so I knew what to expect, a fairly random, simultaneous action selection game that played pretty quickly. Luckily we only had four for this playing (myself, Joe Huber, Rob Wood and his young son Robbie) as I had found the game too random with 5 or 6 on BSW. The game played pretty much like I expected, the first player has the best choice and is the only one who can plan his move. The second player has a decent chance of guessing what the first player does, after that, itís pretty much a crap shoot. The last player just has to guess and hope he has enough rocks to keep Pedro out of the water. The game play is OK and I donít mind playing as a light game, but itís just too random for me to want to buy a copy.

Maus nach Haus

Cute as a button Allison Vander Ark got me, Susan and James ďControl NutĒ Miller into a game of this mouse flicking game. Another kids game that I wouldnít buy because it would never see the light of day with our group, but it was short, silly fun. I saw it played several times during the week.


Leon Hendee pulled a group together and we decided on the classic auction game Ra. We all knew the game and were able to jump right in. I am usually fairly conservative in bidding but decided to be a little more aggressive since initially I got the middle bid tiles (6-11-12). This worked in the first round as I was able to get some Pharaohs and Nile tiles along with a flood to score them. However, I was left with the 1, 4, and 5 tiles going into the second round. I knew I had to call Ra every chance I got to either pick up some tiles with my low tiles or make the others spend their bigger numbers. It worked fairly well as I was able to pick up a large number of Nile tiles (with a flood) and a couple more Pharaohs. I was the points leader going into the last round, but Eddie Bonet had a big collection of monuments that was going to score well. In the third round I was able to pick up even more Nile tiles and a god. The god tile allowed me to pick up a flood late in the round to make sure I scored my Niles (I think I had able 10 or 12). I was also able to score the Most Pharaohs again and a picked up few monument points. It was enough to hold off Eddie Bonetís late monument charge for the win. Always a fun game.

Der Feuer-Salamander

I spent some time walking around talking to people and taking pictures. I wandered over to a table where Frank Branham was trying to decipher the rules to one of his older games. Frank always brings some interesting unknown games. Some are unknown for good reasons but some are pretty fun and worth seeking out. While taking pictures of this game, Frank realized that the game would probably be better with four. We me standing there and an open chair, Dale Yu stated that I just signed up to play the game so I sat down with him, Frank and Sandi West to try it out.

This game was a type of deduction game where you tried to created groups of three cards, one of each of the three components. However, you only have two cards (at most) in your hand so you needed to figure out at least one of the other player's cards. You did this by moving around a small track on the board. If you landed in front of another personís house, you could ask them a yes or no question (ďDo you have an earth card?Ē). They told you the answer secretly. Once you have a set, you tried to race back to your own house to make the guess. However, the playerís turn is controlled by three 4 sided dice. This gives you your movement and also forces you to draw new cards. If you draw a card, you must discard one since your hand limit is two. So, if you figure out another playerís card and they are forced to draw a new card, they can discard the card you just discovered.

The game had some other interesting mechanisms, but all in all, we didnít see a lot in the game. In fact, we jointly decided about halfway through to call it quits since it was progressing very slowly and there didnít seem like there was much more to discover in the game play.


I hooked back up with Susan and got into a game of Manila, another game we both wanted to try before we bought. Hereís an instance where waiting paid off. Neither one of us liked it. Too much randomness and betting for me. I can see where some people might like it but it didnít do anything for me. Good thing Susan didnít like it either so there will be no fights over getting this one. Too bad because it has such nice bits.

Turbo Taxi

Jay Tummelson had a selection of the new Queen games Rio Grande will be distributing. Looking for something short to round out the day, Susan wanted to show me Turbo Taxi, the release of Friedemann Frieseís Flickwerk. This is another timed puzzle game. However, I didnít like this one as much as I had liked Ubongo earlier in the day. The variability in the play did not seem as great. There definitely were patterns to the solutions and some were easier than others. Not a bad game, I just donít think it will have much staying power. Unfortunately this was the only one of the new Queen games I got to play. I missed playing Rat Hot, Roma and Architekton, all of which I was hoping to try.

Posted by Ed Rozmiarek at August 5, 2005 3:41 PM

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