December 13, 2007

Black Friday games

by Susan Rozmiarek

For years we've spent Black Friday, the big day of frenzied holiday shopping in the US, hosting a game day. It's a much better alternative to braving the crowds and traffic. What was funny though, (and sad) was that most of the major stores around here opened that morning around 5am. A few opened at 4am and the outlet mall opened at midnight. So, you could easily put in a full day's worth of shopping and still get to our game day on time! Crazy!


By now most people have heard all about this game which has been carried along by the hype machine since Essen. The few copies at BGG.con saw constant play. Lucky for us, MikeC acquired a German copy and did the mega job of pasting up most of the cards. Mucho thanks to Mike!

This is a big sprawling game of farming. Each player is a farmer expanding his farm and family over the course of the game. At the beginning of the game, you are dealt a hand of cards that are improvements and occupations that you can play during the game. In a manner similar to Caylus, you choose various actions each round by placing a farmer on that action's spot on the board and thereby also denying it to anyone else. You only have two of these farmers in the beginning, but hopefully as your life and farm progress, so does your family and you can put the kiddies to work almost immediately. (Wish this worked in real life) The actions to choose from also increase as the game goes along and allow you to collect various resources to build stuff as well as do other interesting things. An annoying problem that must be dealt with every few rounds is providing enough food for your family which can take away from your ambitious plans for your farm. At the end of the game, victory points are awarded for all manner of things and you are penalized if you have totally neglected any of them. This seems to encourage developing a well-rounded farm.

The key to this game seems to be figuring out the power combos in the hand of cards you have been dealt. This was a bit overwhelming for my first game and I concentrated on a few and essentially ignored the rest. With those, I created a nice bakery setup and didn't manage to bake a thing although I did build up an impressive herd of sheep. Baaaa. Ed played the game later in the day and his game bogged down with some serious analysis paralysis. We all should have probably started with the beginner's version, but the few experienced players wanted their cards. Still, even while muddling through it, I enjoyed myself. It's a building game, with my own sandbox to play in, and I really like this type of game when in the mood. Nobody is able to kick over the sand castle you've been painstakingly building, but you do have to fight them for use of the buckets and shovels. There were all kinds of things to take into consideration and it was quite a challenge juggling them all. Right now I'd consider it a good game that may possibly be elevated to a great one once I figure it out.

Of course, the real question is whether it merits the $75 price tag for preordering the English version. Ed and I had decided the answer was most definitely a "no" and we could just wait until it actually came out, giving us a chance to play it again. Z-man countered by dangling a juicy carrot in the form of "animeeples" for preorders and with that temptation we easily caved. Sigh. My fondness for pretty bits is going to get me in trouble some day. I bet I'm not the first person to say that. ;-)

Susan and Jon examine their Agricola cards. Can you tell who knows what they're doing and who has no clue?

1960: The Making of the President

While I wouldn't normally want to play a two-player game on a game day since I can play them with Ed at other times, I was quite happy to teach and play this one with Mike Chapel. I had just recently played it and wanted to give it another go while it was fresh in my mind. I was once again Kennedy and this time I had a much better idea of what to do. I thought I was doomed at first because I was dealt a hand of Nixon events but this was balanced by a bunch of Kennedy ones with the following hand. This time I didn't ignore the media and I put a lot of effort into controlling the issues which helped me quite a bit. Newbie Nixon concentrated more on controlling the states and there were a few vicious battles. We ended up running out of cubes quite early and I had to scavenge some from an old Risk game. Kennedy emerged victorious on Election Day by a good margin but now that Mike has played a game, that probably wouldn't happen so easily again. I don't quite have a handle on a really good strategy yet, but I liked it even more the second time as I at least have a solid grip on the rules. I love deciding how and when to play the cards in your hand as makes for some interesting decisions. Given the similarities in the two games, I now need to play Twilight Struggle again and see if I understand it better.

Mike does his best Tricky Dick impression while playing 1960: The Making of the President.

This is a very, VERY light card game that I picked up at BGG.con. The theme is "suburban wars" and it has humorous art depicting things like grandmas toting guns and a cat lady (every neighborhood has one) with cats armed with rockets, etc. Having endured living in the suburbs for too many years, I had to have it. The game reminds me of a simpler Pig Pile (if that's possible!). There's practically no thinking required but it makes a nice evening closer for fried brains or as a time killer between games.

I also got to play Uptown and R-Eco which continue to be filler favorites and another game of Gangster which continues to astonish me with how much I like it given how tired I am of new area majority games.

Susan, Jon, Doug and Mike play R-Eco. It looks like Mike's garbage contained toxic fumes.

It was a fine day of games - I liked every game that I played. Or maybe I was just in a good mood?

For more pictures from this gaming session and others, see our Gaming Picture Gallery.

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at December 13, 2007 8:39 PM


Did someone say Agricola?

I think you're quite right to want to try the game without cards. We've played it that way quite a few times (and now always start it that way) and it seems easier to teach and less prone to AP.g

Posted by: Melissa on December 14, 2007 6:20 AM

Susan, I loved your description of a "sandbox" game: "Nobody is able to kick over the sand castle you've been painstakingly building, but you do have to fight them for use of the buckets and shovels." A comment well worth stealing.

Chapel and I have exchanged pleasantries on the Geek for a while, but this is the first time I've seen a picture of the lad. I must say, he bears a disturbing resemblance to his ape avatar!

Posted by: Larry Levy on December 14, 2007 10:27 PM

Melissa: I'm tempted to go to some obscure places on the internet and mention Agricola to see if I can summon you. :-) Then again, I guess my blog is pretty obscure! I am looking forward to that English version.

Larry: Steal any of my descriptions that you want. While I extended the analogy to include sand castles and tools, I've heard the sandbox description before, most recently on Mike Siggin's column describing Agricola. So, I guess I can't take all the credit.

You've probably seen plenty of pictures of Mike on this blog without knowing who it was and there are many more in the gallery. He's such a camera hog! ;-)

Posted by: Susan on December 15, 2007 11:19 AM
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