August 2, 2006

Susan's Gulf Games Report - Part 2

by Susan Rozmiarek

The next two days were the most intense, gaming-wise. Ed and I did take time out to enjoy several meals with other folks at nearby restaurants. I always greatly look forward to these enjoyable opportunities to get to know people away from the gaming table.

Thursday

Viva Topo!

Take Midnight Party and replace Hugo the Ghost with a cat and the partygoers with mice ducking into rooms to get cheese, and you have this wildly overproduced Selecta game. But boy, are the bits nice. The game is actually a little better than Midnight Party, because there is more of a push-your luck element. The rooms furthest away have more cheese, so you can stay out longer and try to get to them at the risk of getting eaten by the bad olí kitty. If my kids were younger, I would buy this in a heartbeat. If it wasnít so expensive, Iíd buy it anyway because it is a nice little filler for adults.

Au Backe!

This is a simple memory game of flipping cards and trying to get pairs. Itís nothing special, but the kids that I played with enjoyed it.

Expedition

This is a sentimental game from my early days of eurogaming. I donít think that Iíll ever tire of it. Itís yet another twist on a connection game and I adore those. Iíve always wished I could read the German text about all those neat places depicted on the cards. Lo and behold, after we were finished I spied a copy of the new National Geographic version sitting on someoneís pile of games. There have been some changes to the map, but all the cards were in English. Sweet. I found a copy online but it was pretty pricey for a game we already have. Should I get it? Itís tempting.

Rum & Pirates

I taught this to Ed, Sarah Samuelson, and Peter and Kim McCarthy. This playing went much more quickly than my first, but it was still a little too long. Iím wondering if making it one round shorter would fix the game length without having a negative impact on the game play. Others that played the game, however, claimed they clocked in at about 45 minutes which would be just the right amount of time for this. Still, I think everyone playing enjoyed it.

Ticket to Ride: Switzerland

This was a ďhomemadeĒ copy of a map for exactly three players that is only available on the Ticket to Ride PC game. My opponents were Alan Moon and Kim Berg. Now, I figured that Alan would whoop up on Kim and me as Iím sure that heís played the game a couple of times. What I did not know until we sat down and starting setting it up was that Kim has played the computer version approximately 979 times. A day. Okay, Iím only kidding but sheís played it enough to know the individual personalities of the AI opponents. So, I was sunk before ever leaving the dock. As I was getting used to the foreign map and making good progress toward connecting my destination cities, Alan and Kim started a flurry of destination ticket drawing and quickly sucked up most of the deck. My conservative play of waiting until late in the game to draw more tickets has served me well in the past with the original game so I was mildly panicked. By the time I started drawing new tickets, they were about gone. Also, there are apparently some key routes on this map that need to be grabbed early. I didnít. Despite my drubbing (about 60 points behind the other two!), it was highly amusing to see Kim beat Alan, apparently for the second time. I ordered a copy of the PC game immediately when we got home so I can practice in secret and get my revenge at the next Gulf Games!

Ark

Sarah and Dillon Samuelson wanted to play this game with experienced players. Ed and I were happy to oblige, although we arenít all that experienced. Still, weíve played it enough to be comfortable with the rules as long as we have a playerís aid in front of us. Iíve played this game several times now and I still canít decide if I like it our not. Iím now over the hump of learning all the fiddly placement rules and I really enjoy the puzzle of placing cards. I just donít like the majority scoring for some reason. Iíd enjoy the game a lot more if you simply scored straight points for placing animals or won by getting rid of all your cards or something. If I had a designer bone in my body Iíd be hard at work tweaking this one but alas, I donít. I actually won this game, one of my few wins the entire week.

Russian Rails

Getting to play a crayon rail game with fans of the genre was a rare treat for me. This game has been sitting unplayed on our shelves for a while now so I brought it along in the hopes that I find some opponents. I was delighted when Joe Huber asked me to play with him and Jim McDanold. Thor, who had never played one of these games before, joined us as well. The twist with the Russian version is that many of the event cards have dual events, one for both before and after the fall of communism. A card that indicates the fall of communism is randomly shuffled in to the deck. The event that takes place depends on whether this card has been drawn yet or not. There are also some other rules that make things more difficult if communism falls. The card never got drawn in our game but just the threat provided some nice tension toward the end. Thor and Joe had a pretty tight battle for first place with Joe emerging victorious. The game took two-and-a-half hours, not including the rules explanation, which wasnít bad. We were slow due to not being familiar with Russian geography, but that was countered some by Joeís fast Huber-speed play.

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at August 2, 2006 8:13 PM

Comments

As someone who got to play the National Geographic version of Expedition at GG, I found a couple of disconcerting changes:

1. There is now a stinkin' EXPRESSWAY across the Antarctic. (Combination of blue & red dots)

2. We didn't use them in our game, but the rules for "special" missions (indicated w/ a chip) have changed - you get them when you have expeditions entering from all directions. This still strikes me as weird and I'm not sure I read it correctly. (BTW, you only get 4 chips per color.)

3. OK, I said a couple, but I need to mention that Ravensburger settled on one rule for looping (must play your new arrow off the loop). I still like being able to loop off anywhere in the expedition.

Posted by: Mark Jackson on August 2, 2006 8:42 PM

Thanks for the heads-up on the changes. Ugh. Those don't sound good. I've mixed feelings about the loop rule. I lean slightly towards the more generous one allowing going off any part of the expedition.

Posted by: Susan on August 3, 2006 3:46 PM
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