Date: April 24, 2003

Games: Bang! (x2), Der Garten des Sonnenkönigs

Attendees: Doug, Ed, Helen, Jon, Mark, Rick, Robert and Susan

Reporter: Susan Rozmiarek

With Ed and our son at soccer practice and not expected for about an hour, the seven of us decided to play Bang!, one of our current favs for large groups. Doug, Mark, Jon and I were all seasoned gunslingers while Robert, Rick and Helen were greenhorns, blithely unaware of the bloodbath that was about to follow.

Bang!: Helen, Doug, Jon, Rick, Robert, Mark, Susan

I hate explaining the rules to this type of game. Sure, the basic game play is simple - draw cards, play cards, discard cards - but then you have to go over all the different cards (and there are lots). I explained several of them, and then we just decided to dive in the game and explain them as they came up. We also decided to play with two variants: After being assigned their secret roles, players were dealt two character cards and got to choose between them. Also, jail sentences were limited to just one round.

What ensued was the shortest game of Bang! I've ever played. Rick was the unfortunate Sheriff. Unfortunate because he was seated next to me, Willy the Kid, the meanest, baddest outlaw in the West. The trigger happy Willy is able to play as many Bang! cards on his turn as he wants. After the doomed sheriff took the first turn of the game, Willy robbed a stagecoach to fill his hand and then unloaded his Colt 45 into the unlucky sheriff. The sheriff was able to dodge one bullet but took two hits. Severely wounded and depleted of cards, he was no match for Willy's partners in crime. Helen delivered the fatal shot when she challenged him to a duel. An outlaw victory! Robert, the last player in the turn order, never even got to take a single turn.

Bang!: Helen, Doug, Jon, Rick, Robert, Mark, Susan

After the first rather unsatisfying game, we decided to give it another go. This time Jon was the sheriff and started the game by lobbing out that dynamite card. People started cautiously taking potshots at each other, with no real clues coming out about who the good guys and bad guys were. Meanwhile, the Dynamite with the Long Fuse kept trucking around the table, keeping everyone nervous. Robert, an outlaw, was to first to fall, followed by me, a deputy, unable to protect myself from injuns. My own boss, the sheriff, played that fatal card after I was already weakened and wounded by my fellow deputy, Doug. Hummmf. So much for trying to be a good guy. The dynamite, after 2+ astonishing laps, finally blew up outlaw Rick. Things were looking swell for the good guys. About this time, Robert, Rick, and I, bored to death, scooted off to play another game with the newly-arrived Ed. Later reports indicate that after much shooting and swilling of beer, Helen was the last one standing, taking the honor of being the first renegade to win in any of our games.

Der Garten des Sonnenkönigs: Robert, Rick, Ed, Susan

We purchased this somewhat unknown title a long time ago and played it once. I must admit that I was drawn to it by its pretty looks (I'm so shallow). It was rather confusing, but both Ed and I thought it held promise. Unfortunately, the other players didn't care for it and have since never been willing to give it a second shot. After seeing it mentioned recently online, I decided it was time to inflict it again upon our group. Luckily, our little crowd has grown since then. We have a couple of fresh, new and unspoiled players that don't have mean little game biases and are willing to try anything.

This time the rules made a lot more sense to me. I'm finding this to be the case with many older titles that I haven't played in a long time. This is the result of more experience with many different types of games and with shaky rules translations.

I'm really surprised that this game hasn't gotten more attention. It has some rather smooth, clever mechanisms. It's an auction game, but unlike many other auction games, it is easier to figure out what things are worth. This game is very analytical and requires careful money management. Even with being able to figure out the potential value of the plots, there are still a lot of tense decisions to be made, since you can't be sure a project will finish. And finishing or preventing the finishing of projects is dependent on moving that clever administrator, which might necessitate overbidding on something. Very good stuff.

I think all of us were in a fog as to what to bid in the beginning of the game. As things progressed, Ed started to play Mr. Conservative, while the rest of us were being too free with our cash. I was banking on a large garden being completed that might have won me the game, but I couldn't make it happen and Ed came up victorious. I'm really wanting to play this again. It's very confusing at first and I think I'm getting a handle on it now.

Scores: Ed 73, Susan 57, Robert 55, Rick 35

    Ed's comments:
    It was very nice to get this on the table again. It has been almost two years since we have played it. As already mentioned, we are getting a subset of games that are not getting played due to one or two people vetoing the game. They are really missing out on this one.

    Early on in the game (and in like many auction games) you are not really sure how much the items are worth. In this game, you are gambling that the projects you buy into will be completed as they will be worth much more to you. As the game goes on, the actual worth of the project pieces may be more calculatable but you may want to up the bid to influence the next item up for auction. A very nice dilemma. I only find that the last two or three auctions (out of the possible 22) are so highly calculatable that there is usually a hard and fast limit on what I will pay. I must find a way to get this back on the table soon.

Medieval Merchant: Doug, Helen, Jon, Mark

Meanwhile, a long and quiet game of Medieval Merchant was being played at the other table. Although I have no report on the game, every time I wandered by, the general consensus was that Doug was just smokin' everyone else and the Jon was very happy to almost not come in last.

Results: Doug 57, Mark 43, Helen 37, Jon 36

Desperados waiting for a card
It's the outlaws vs the Sheriff during the Bang! game, but just who's who?
Say what?
Robert looks puzzled during Der Garten des Sonnenkönigs while Susan and Rick look on.
Der Garten des Sonnenkönigs
A view of the Der Garten des Sonnenkönigs board near the end of the game.
Medieval Merchant players
Doug, Jon and Helen wait while Mark performs a rules lookup during their game of Medieval Merchant.
Medieval Merchant
A view of the Medieval Merchant board.

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