August 6, 2005

Susan's Gulf Games Report, Part 2

by Susan Rozmiarek

Refreshed after sleeping in, I arrived in the game room rather late in the morning but ready for a full day of gaming. I spied a group setting up Kaleidos, a Gulf Games favorite, and eagerly joined as I had never played it.




This felt more like a group activity than a real game, but it was a fun activity. The game consists of identical sets of pictures propped on easels for everyone to examine. The pictures are very busy with lots of small objects in them. A spinner randomly determines a particular letter of the alphabet and an hourglass is turned over. Everyone then furiously tries to write down as many things before the time runs out that they can see in the picture that start with the letter. Then, everyone compares results, scoring one point for things also found by others and five points for unique things on their list. This procedure is repeated for twelve pictures. Things listed do not have to be nouns; they can be adjectives like colors and emotions as well. Itís quite fun seeing what people can come up with besides the obvious.

I started off slowly but got better with practice. With some pictures, Iíd just draw a total blank which was very frustrating. I didnít do too badly though, placing in the middle of the pack against Gail Schloesser, Kim McCarthy, Scott Tullis, and Cheryl Tullis. Unfortunately, this game is out of print and nearly impossible to find. Iím thinking of trying to make a homemade version with a copy of Scrutineyes that I found in a local thrift store. Iím not sure what to substitute for the spinner, though.


This is another ďspeed puzzleĒ game with players racing to be the first to solve a puzzle. Players each have an identical set of shapes that they will be trying to fit on randomly drawn boards each round. A die roll determines which shapes from their set each player will have to use to complete the puzzle on their card. So, everyone is working on a different puzzle each time. There is a really wonky scoring system. Gems of different colors are laid out on a main board in rows of twelve. Players that manage to finish their puzzle in the allotted time get to take two gems from the end of a row. The earlier you finish, the more flexibility you have picking from which row to take your gems. After nine rounds, the player with the most gems of a single color wins the game.

Personally, I thought the whole scoring system was fussy and it took too long to set up at the beginning of the game. I think others have come up with simpler rules to collect the gems, although for me it didnít really matter. I just enjoyed trying to be first to complete my puzzle. Heck, I just enjoyed trying to complete my puzzle before the time ran out! Gail absolutely rocked at this game, winning pretty easily. Also playing were Tom Cortazzo and his son, Paul. This game was very popular and it got lots of play all week. I wouldnít mind owning a copy.


The Ubongo group stuck around to play another game, relaxing our brains a bit with this light, press-your-luck game. Actually, the physical game itself is not very light, being quite over-produced with wooden Indiana Jones meeples, pretty gems, and little individual chests for players to put their treasure in. Very pretty and no complaints from this bit worshipper, even though I cringed when I saw how much a copy would cost me.

The game is very simple. Players are exploring mines that are represented by cards. The cards either show a ďdisasterĒ or they show a number that represent how many gems are found in that section of a mine. Players have to decide before each card is flipped whether or not to stay. If a number card is flipped, those that stayed divvy up the gems evenly, leaving any left over on the card. However, if a disaster is flipped, and there is already another of the same type showing from an earlier flip, then the expedition ends and the players still in the mine lose the gems that they have found so far in that mine. Cowardly (smart?) explorers that bail early get to run back out of the mine, scooping up any gems that were leftover on the tiles. They get to put these and any other gems collected so far into the safety of their treasure chest. Surprising, the fancy meeples are simply used as simultaneous indicators by players to show whether they are staying in or fleeing. Players explore the mines five times before gems are tallied up to determine the winner.

Ooooo, I did like this game. Pretty, pretty, pretty and I just love to push my luck. Too bad I pressed it too much and came in last! The game is almost too simple but I donít care; it was fun. Iím glad we have a copy on the way from Adam Spielt. Given that it plays very quickly and handles up to eight people almost guarantees that it will see a lot of table time as a filler with my group at home.

St. Petersburg

I finally played a game that Iíve actually played before. Learning all these new games is wonderful, but my brain was beginning to overload. A person can only hold so many rules in her head. I sat down with Philip Sasse, Cary Cleaver, and Chris Comeaux to play St. Petersburg. Cary was not very familiar with the game so Philip started explaining the rules. I started mentally moaning ďuh-ohĒ in my head as Philip and Chris were commenting on the various buildings and which were their favorites. Obviously, they had played the game a lot, definitely more than the few times that make up the total of my experience. I did know that it was very bad for the rest of us when Chris got the Observatory in the first round. He wasnít afraid to use it often, either. Philip however, also knew what he was doing and was able to get a lot of aristocrats, as well as the second Observatory later in the game. He was able to win with 84 points over Chrisí 73. Cary did very well with a bit of help from Philip, and pipped me for third place. I did dismally, scoring only 65 points. I played way too conservatively. I need to play this game more often.

We took break in the gaming to ride the trolley to Marguaritaville. With all the fabulous places to eat in New Orleans, this was the only must-visit for Ed. He is a total Parrothead and had enjoyed visiting the one in Las Vegas on a business trip earlier in the year. Some dire warnings of long waits by other Gulf Gamers who had eaten there earlier in the week prompted us to get an early start. It was crowded, but we got seated fairly quickly. I had blackened salmon, which was decent, served with garlic, mashed, sweet potatoes, which were weird. Garlic just doesnít go with sweet potatoes. I did have a Perfect Marguarita, which wasnít perfect because it wasnít frozen. Our server said that it was mostly liquor so it couldnít be frozen. The menu almost scared me away from it, saying it was very strong and for ďprofessionals only,Ē but I didnít think it was much stronger than a normal drink. Ed was pretty disappointed as the place was really just another over-priced tourist trap. He thought the one in Las Vegas was much better.


After we returned to the game room, Valerie Putman showed Chris Comeaux, Michael Weston, Ed and me a prototype. I think Jay Tummelson had brought it. Obviously, I canít say much about it, but I will say that it was a speed game of recognizing colors and patterns, with the object of getting rid of all your cards. This kind of game is not my favorite, but it seemed to be a rather good game of this type. I believe it was designed by Reiner Knizia.

Louis XIV

Another new game to learn and this one was a doozy. There was a lot going on here and I think that I would have to play it again to even try and do a decent job of describing the mechanisms. Iíll give it a very brief shot, though. Players are trying to earn victory points, mostly by fulfilling the requirements on secret mission cards and also by obtaining shields. Getting the stuff necessary to fulfill the missions involve getting majorities of your influence cubes on 12 different locations on the board. This is done through the play of cards and some movement rules when the cubes are placed. The 12 board locations each provide different items or allow the player to do some action. A lot of planning and management is necessary in this game, and there are a lot of details to learn, so be prepared to be totally confused your first game. I certainly was. And about that random shield bonus that so many are griping about Ė it didnít bother me a bit. It was no different to me than a bad die roll or not drawing a card I needed in other games. If I feel I played a clever game, losing by a point or two doesnít ruin the experience for me. Iím just not that competitive, I guess. Valerie won our game, with Ed second, me third, and Michael W. fourth.

I wasnít totally wowed by the game as it was a bit fiddly, but I think if I became more familiar with it Iíd enjoy it enough to own it.

All the younger children had to be out of the game room by 11pm, so I retired for the evening and took Shea up to the room. I was pretty beat.

Next up: Part three, including the King Arthur Card Game, Amazonas, Eleusis, and Shadows Over Camelot

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at August 6, 2005 7:37 PM


For a homemade Kaleidos game you could use the big alphabet die that comes with Scattergories (if you see one thrift shopping!) or you can buy one at the dice section of teacher supply stores. Teacher supply stores have blank spinners, too. The game reminds me of the classic picture book Animalia, whose author was in Austin recently. Everything in the detailed paintings on each page pertains to a letter. He held up the book and people instantly were shouting out things, many of them quite different from one another. Interesting how our minds work.

Posted by: Betty on August 9, 2005 8:25 AM
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