First Contact with Cosmic Encounter

June 28, 2010

Well, the weather didn’t really cooperate on my birthday. Tornadoes, golf ball sized hail, sheets of rain–they all made me a rather nervous homeowner. But we survived, and two friends braved the storm to drink some beer and play a game. Of course, we had to play one of my birthday presents: Cosmic Encounter, purchased that very day. Earlier in the week, I had watched a brief introductory video and was prepared to teach the game. We played in about an hour with only two rules ambiguities, which confirmed my pre-purchase research–it’s a simple game with a surprising amount of depth.

So, who played and what happened?

John the Chosen: As fun as it would have been to play The Losers, I went with The Chosen: every time I’m the main player in an encounter, I get to grab three cards off the top of the deck and use one to increase or replace my encounter card. Sweet. The other players begin to plot against me; the power of the special ability is pretty transparent and they quickly realized they needed to counter it. As it’s a first game, I basically paint a target on my back, deciding that forcing them on the offensive would make for a fun game. I was right; after some rapid first-turn expansion, they turned on me like a pack of intergalactic thieves , stabbed me in the back, and left me for dead.

Sara and Baby Girl the Mutants: Sara, perhaps subconsciously acknowledging that she’s carrying our little mutant inside of her, took The Mutants. She was careful to draw up to a maximum hand of eight before resolving each of her encounters. In the end, she was able to cycle through the deck quickly and saved her wicked +40 attack card for the last encounter, which gave her the game. Why couldn’t I stop her, you ask? Because she’s got two brains to my one. And she’s freaking ruthless, even on my birthday. Which is one of the many reasons I love her.

Aaron the Barbarian: It was really cool watching Aaron play The Barbarians. He’s a pretty casual gamer, but quickly developed a sound strategy. He clearly drew a bad starting hand full of Negotiations, but was willing to throw his ships into the warp in order to draw a large hand and give himself more options. He was also incredibly sneaky, riding our coattails and almost winning the game by the second turn. He’d just quietly come in on one side of an encounter or another, take his colonies, and keep quiet.

Karen the Zombie: Preferring birthday cake to brains, Karen still made a good Zombie. She was a little wary of playing with spaceships on a Friday night, but warmed up to it admirably! In the end, she screwed me out of an alliance so that Sara won all by her lonesome and I came in tied for second with Karen. All I have to say is watch your back next time, blondie.

All in all, it was a great way to spend a stormy Friday night. There was a lot of laughter and discussion about the game, but it didn’t feel like a huge brain drain. The 50 alien races will keep the game fresh for a long time, and the simple rules combined with  endless opportunities to interfere in others’ encounters make it a great gateway game with more direct interaction than Carcassonne or Settlers of Catan, though next time I’ll keep Flares out of teaching games with casual players for the sake of simplicity. The stunning finish to the first game with Karen pulling the rug out from under me made me laugh really hard. However, after I recovered, I was instantly ready for a second game. Next time, I will rule the galaxy for sure!

So, first contact with Cosmic Encounter? A resounding success! It appeals to the intergalactic Lex Luthor in all of us.

Bribe Your Way to Victory

June 24, 2010

Last night, I introduced a few friends to Ca$h and Gun$, hence forth referred to as Cash and Guns because it is far easier to type and read, the game about gangsters splitting the loot. We were having a fun time, when “El Toro,” having the biggest stack and being a new player asks if he can bribe people to keep them from shooting him. Immediately light bulbs went off and we realized we had a fun new variant on our hands.

The next game included bribery rules. The rules were simple and followed the gangster theme:

  • Bribes can be offered by anyone at any time.
  • Bribes can be paid out at anytime (in advance, after the deed is done, or split between the two).
  • Lying, cheating, and not paying of bribes is acceptable.

The bribery rules definitely added fun and unpredictability to the game. We saw a double cross as a bribe paid in advance turned into a bullet to the back. And then there was “Mr. Black” who fell behind in the cash count early in the game bounce back after hiring himself out as a gun for hire. Of course, there were a number of bribes rejected because the payout wasn’t good enough.

In then end, it was a house rule that I’d definitely recommend checking out. I also think it could go quite well with the Cop in the Mafia rules included in the base game.

A Good Week

June 10, 2010

This has been a good week and it’s not even over yet.

John had some people over for a BBQ. The weather was perfect and the company enjoyable. After some bean bag toss and dinner I got in a full game of Manoeuvre on the patio table. My Austrians lost a close one at nightfall to the Prussians. Next to us John’s Ottoman cavalry were too much for Russ’ Russians. After that I played a teaching game with another friend.

My 3.5 and 1.5 year-old girls and I went through the game cupboard. First the girls wanted to look at the dice for Boggle. Then we played a game of Jenga. I push a block out part way for them to grab. They also get to hold on to the tower at times. After 5-6 turns my youngest got a little too aggressive and knocked over the tower – but of course that’s the best part of Jenga for them! After I cleaned that up, the girls sorted out the Rummikub tiles onto the racks. I think I like their variants for those games better.

John came over and we played a couple of battles in Command & Colors: Ancients. I had played around with the Wargameroom module for this game and found it fairly straight forward to play. So after a brief rules summary we took to the battle field. My Syracuse forces inexperienced leader failed them in the Battle of Akragas, but took their revenge near the Crimissos River. Both games were won by one victory banner. I really like the quick playing nature and the subtle strategies in the game. And all those little blocks make it feel like you are actually commanding an army. I look forward to more plays.

Although no board games were played, I did put in another big board game order for our gaming group. In fact, our biggest one yet. Now I have to wait a whole week to get to tear off the shrink wrap, but it’ll be worth it. Look forward to some Inside the Box posts soon!

Thursday, Friday and Saturday
I’m not sure what tonight or the rest of the week will bring in terms of gaming. Possibly a game or two with my wife. However, I get to cap this week off by watching the USA take on England in the World Cup Saturday afternoon. What could be better?

Opening Ceremonies at the Summer of Victory III

June 1, 2010

It was Jason, one of the hosts of the Point 2 Point podcast, that started it. A few years ago, having wrapped up another year of teaching, he declared a “summer of victory,” promising to win more board games than he lost. It did not go well, turning into a summer of defeat, but at least it wasn’t a summer of obliteration or anything. It became something of a joke on the podcast, with co-host Scott sarcastically asking him every episode how the summer of victory was going.

Two years ago, I declared my own personal summer of victory. Ah, the halcyon days of 2008: one year into my new board gaming hobby, I played 40 games between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend, which would become the official start and end times of all future summers of victory. I won 23 of those games, batting a respectable .575. Last year, however, 2009, was a much different time. I don’t really like to remember that summer, in which I played 54 games for only 22 wins, a measly .407 average. It was the World Boardgaming Championships that did it, which dashed my hopes of ever being a world champion (it turned out I was just a local champion). I went only 2 for 16 in that hateful week in August.

But hope springs eternal! Memorial Day weekend just wrapped up, the official opening ceremonies of the 2010 summer of victory (in my head anyway). I hummed the Olympic Theme throughout, although I only won one of the four games I played while camping with the in-laws. As it turns out, cribbage is not my strong suit. However, the entire summer is stretched out before me, one glorious, sun-drenched time in which to…crush my opponents whenever, wherever, and however they oppose me. To victory!