Date: February 13-16, 2003

Place: Birmingham, Alabama

Reporter: Susan Rozmiarek

The People:
I thought nothing could surpass the marvelous time I had at Gulf Games 10, my first Gulf Games. Well, was I ever wrong. Gulf Games 11 was truly incredible. Instead of feeling like a slightly nervous newcomer in a room full of friendly strangers, this time I found myself feeling comfortable in a room full of familiar friends, all here to enjoy a shared passion for fun and games. As an added bonus, I got to make several new friends. A huge highlight for me was getting to meet for the first time some of my fellow "Nigglybitters," from the Yahoo group Nigglybits. Sarah, Michael, Mark- I enjoy your face-to-face company even more than I do online. The same goes for you too, Stven and David, and any others.

It really amazes me how such a seemingly diverse group of people of all ages can come together and enjoy such camaraderie and friendship. Gulf Games is truly magical. My family and I are so lucky to be a part of it.

The Event:
Once again, the creativity and hard work of Greg, Vickie, Tim, and others made for a superb event. The "Lame Game" decorations were hilarious, the game room was spacious and the view was fabulous. The refreshments seemed to magically get replenished and everything was so organized. The setup for the kids was perfect. Being able to see, but not hear them was great. Nice job, ya'll!

The Games:
Now for the games I played. As before, I had a long list of games I wanted to play. As before, I only got to play a handful of them. Too many games, too little time! I learned 17 new games and played a total of about twice that. My brain definitely got a good workout. Here's some comments on some of the games I played:

I'd never even heard of this cute little pig racing game from Alex Randolph. It's a roll and move game with the pigs racing along a path. Pigs stack on top of one another if they land on the same space. In this way, your opponents can give you a "piggyback" ride on their turn. Special die rolls can give you an extra turn and each player can extend the path once during the game. It's definitely a children's game, but the adults playing, including myself, enjoyed it.

I've played this a couple of times now and I still have to be reminded of all the little quirky rules. I'm also far from mastering the strategies, although I've enjoyed trying to figure them out. Fortunately, this time I had experienced player at my side for part of the game giving me a few tips. I biggest problem was being too chicken to call Tichu when I had great hand. The highlight of the game was when I did call Tichu and was bombed by both partners of the opposition, and was still able to go out first. I can see this is a neat game, even though I am nowhere close to being able to play it well.

Moderne Zeiten:
This was one of the games I wanted to play to see if it is worth purchasing. I enjoyed it, but it took me about half the game to figure out the flow of things and what the card sets up for auction were worth. It is definitely more in the "filler" category than it appears. I need to play it again. For now it sits squarely on the fence as far as whether or not I want to buy a copy.

Take It Easy:
I had printed off a copy of one of the optimal solutions to this that I had gotten from a Spielfrieks post. Sarah S. decided to use it to see how high of a score she could get. Not very. I think she scored about 80. The problem is that the chances of getting those exact pieces are very slim and you can easily get hosed. The solution has "ones" running down the middle column. Not filling this with "nines" and getting that 45 points is painful. I think Shay D. tried the same thing later and got a really low score too. Cheating doesn't pay!!

My Word:
I was reluctant to try this as I'm so bad at word games, but we needed a quick game to kill time while waiting for another player to finish up a Crokinole game. Turns out it wasn't so terrible. In this game you are trying to make quick, short words from letters on cards as they are turned up. If you are first to make a word you get those cards. The person who collects the most cards is the winner. This was more my speed. I got absolutely humiliated playing Pick Two (not for word wimps) at the last Gulf Games.

Abenteuer Menschheit:
Caveman Settlers was another game I wanted to try out. I think the vanilla Settlers is a decent, but not great game. The historical scenarios that I have tried, however, have been the real gems of the series for me. This one looks like it is going to be another winner. Unfortunately, we were all new to the game and bungled some rules that probably would have changed the way the game played out. One was regarding the caveman. Actually, I think we got a couple of rules wrong concerning him. The major one is that he does NOT block movement on the hex on which he stands. We played that he did and used him liberally to block people's progress. Another rule we got wrong was that nomads are placed on an empty spot adjacent to a tribe. We placed them on the same spot as a tribe. This meant spending a little more meat to send them forth. Meat is scarce enough as it is. Another thing I wish we had known was that there was a starting setup for inexperienced players in the rulebook. It's hard to make smart placements at the start having never played the game before. Despite these blunders, I did enjoy the game and it definitely had a bit of a different feel to it. I'm looking forward to trying it again with the correct rules.

I had never given this game much of a look-see because of all the comments I had read proclaiming it to be not much of a game. Wrong! It was light, but it was fun "exploring" and flipping over chits and the decisions about what to do with your discoveries kept me interested. Best of all, my ten year old son was in the game and really enjoyed it also. A good, enjoyable family game that goes on my buy list.

Ah, this was the hit of the weekend for me. I got to play it twice. Clever, clever little bidding and set collecting game that reminded me of Don. I loved the juicy tension of having to decide whether to take the money and run or stay in the bidding. I usually couldn't resist and took the money to save for a really good card. That is, unless the person before me hosed me by taking it first. Good stuff! I would have bought a copy on the spot had there been one available.

Yet another game on my "try before you buy list." Not only does this game look great, it has a theme that appeals to me and uses one of my favorite mechanics- tile laying. Combine that with an auction to make it interesting and a clever mechanism for ties and you have a winner. I have heard that the game has a runaway leader problem and I did win by a good margin. Hopefully further plays will not show this to be a trend.

Lest you think I love every game I play, here is one that fell flat for me. In defense of the game, it was unique and I could see how many people would like it. For me, however, it seemed like a frustrating puzzle that I couldn't solve. I would look at the board and feel that there was some clever move that I could make if only I could see it. The fact that it was late in the day and I had a headache didn't help, either. Since the other players weren't too enthusiastic either, we didn't finish the game. I guess I need to try this one again as I just didn't get it at all.

This was a really short game. Some early questions provided a lot of information. I feel like I could do well at this game if I could only figure out a better system of notation. Michael W. had some really nice sheets he made up for this game and he shared with me some note-taking tips. Although I didn't win, his advice helped a lot and I'm eager to try it again.

This is a pleasant little set-collecting card game in which you trade and sell goods. I enjoyed it but it was nothing special.

This is an older racing game that reminds me a little bit of checkers. I played the newer version that has nice chunky kangaroos and a big rubber mat. Learning the very simple rules won't fry any of your brain cells but figuring out how to position your kangaroos and also capitalize on others' for the big play certainly might. A fun game; I bought a copy. I only wish it didn't come in such a big, empty box.

Liar's Dice:
I am terrible at this game and went out in flames on something like the second round. 'Nuff said.

This is the new version of Pirat, a game that I have never played. The partnership aspect was interesting, but it felt too much like other games to me.

I had played this a few times before. I don't hear too much about this game which surprises me. It is a very nice light, tactical game.

Schrille Stille:
Adam Spielt's low, low sale price on this game has tempted me to throw it on an order but bad reviews have stayed my hand. Those reviews were dead on. The game has one of the niftiest gizmos I've ever seen, but the game felt too random and dragged on way too long. I often felt like I was taking wild guesses. I'll pass on this one.

Hexen Rennen:
One of Mark Jackson's fluffy games, but it was good fluff. A roll-and-move witch racing game with the added suspense of flipping tiles to see if you get to jump ahead or fall victim to an opponent's hex. No heavy thinking here, just good, light fun.

My last game of Gulf Games took me out with a bang (bad pun intended). Here is a game that I didn't know I wanted to play until I did. I have vague memories of this game being a dull rock amidst shiny gems of new releases when it came out. It got some lukewarm reviews and I simply forgot it existed. Turns out, the game is a mishmash of familiar mechanics meshed together in a nice little package. My early cowboys were fabulous gold diggers and had me swimming in cash. While everyone else were cringing under the threat of looming vultures, I was buying extra movement on the track with all my gold. Alas, they turned out to be lousy poker players. Just when I was one turn away from victory, I lost some key poker games and had to move backwards. Meanwhile, up and coming gunslinger Mark was pulling dangerously near. When the last IOUs come up, my cash supply run out and I got one of those evil vultures, sealing my fate and giving Mark a stunning upset. Painful!

A simply fabulous four days of fun and gaming. You know you've had a good time when you haven't even pulled out of the hotel parking lot but are already making plans for the next Gulf Games.

Loads of pictures from Gulf Games 11 can be found in the Gulf Games 11 album in our Photo gallery.

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