BattleTech, Carcassonne, Finca and a Surprise!

September 19, 2011

A week ago Saturday started out as expected. My wife and I got the kids ready for the day and then we headed over to a friends house – our couples book club was meeting that day. After a nice morning chatting, I headed over to Russ’ house to start a new RPG Campaign set in the BattleTech universe. The session was the first time playing for all of us. With the MechWarrior soundtrack playing in the background we went out on a training simulation to get our feet wet. We had fun but had to wrap things up at about 4:15 as people had stuff to get to.

I got in my car and texted my wife I was on my way home. She called me back and asked if I’d stop at the store to pick up something we needed for dinner. No problem. When I finally I got home I walked in the door to our lower level and started up the stairs.

That’s when it happened.

“SURPRISE!” and at about the same time I saw faces that I didn’t expect to see in my house. Lots of faces.

I was floored. And speechless. My wife was thrilled. She had flawlessly pulled off what I told her many months before something she couldn’t do: throw me a surprise party. I was sure I would pick up the clues and figured it would never happen – I would find someway to spoil the surprise. Not only did it happen it blew me away.

I finally made it up the stairs and said hello to everyone – all 40+ people! Then I looked at my cake:

The meeples placed illegally were quickly eaten.

Cake-assonne! Even the Meeples are edible.

Wow. Even better than last year’s cake and that one was great.

All I could do is ask: How…? Where…? When…? I got the answers and all the little clues I had ignored previously started to make sense. Then we dug into the food and drinks and had a blast. Later in the evening I kept thinking about the past couple of weeks. It was like watching a good movie that has a surprise twist at the end. As soon as the movie is over you want to hit play again and see all the clues you missed.

A few days later I finally recovered my wits. Just in time to celebrate my birthday on the actual day. I received some fantastic gifts – one of which of course was a board game. This time: Finca. We played that night and had a blast. I’ve since played it 5 more times and am really enjoying it.

Now all I can wonder is: will I ever be able to top that surprise party…?

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Family Reunion Time

June 24, 2011

Next week I’ll be taking a much needed vacation with my family. We’ll be heading to Wisconsin Dells to relax, have fun doing some touristy stuff and most importantly visit with my extended family. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen some of my cousins – who, like me, are now married with children – the last time I saw a lot of them were at my Grandparent’s funerals. I’m looking forward to chatting and spending time with them. And when we get together we play games.

I have fond memories of visiting my Grandparents’ house as a kid. The crossword puzzle was always completed by Grandma before we were even out of bed. Playing Boggle against her was a losing affair. And at night we gathered around the dining room table to play poker and “Cayman Rummy” – a rummy variant they invented while vacationing in the Caymans.

They’re will be plenty of card games being played, but here’s a list of games I’ll be bringing for the trip. My criteria for bringing a game are: portable/small, easy to learn, plays quickly and multiple players. Obviously not every game meets all 4 criteria but here we go:

Travel Blokus
Although this is only for 2 players, how can I pass up bringing one of the few games specifically designed for travel. Plus the game can be taught and played in about 15 minutes.

TransAmerica
This is one that meets all 4 criteria. I’ve had good success introducing this game to several people and they all enjoy it.

Dixit
Another game that has been a hit after introducing it to several people. I think people enjoy the creativity it allows.

Space Hulk: Death Angel
I think some of my cousin’s children will be approaching – or already in – their teens years. I’m thinking I should be able to get a group of young men to rally together and slay some genestealers. Plus the box is so small I can’t justify leaving it behind.

Wits & Wagers
A trivia game for up to seven people that isn’t boring. Plus it plays quickly. Although the box is pretty big… maybe I’ll throw the components into a smaller box to make room for another game.

Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers

I’m bringing this instead of regular Carc for two reasons: 1) my little sister has the Big Box so I don’t want to be redundant if she brings that and 2) it’s my most recent game acquisition so it still has that new game shininess.

King Me!
Another one that meets all 4 criteria. I actually like this game more than I thought I would after a few plays. A little bit of psychological warfare in a small package.

I’ll let you know how these games go over.


Manoeuvre Toeurnament: We Have a Winner!

June 12, 2011

Sara and Joe were able to finish up their two games in the Semifinals of the Manoeuvre Toeurnament. However, routing for Sara didn’t give her the boost she needed to take down Joe. He was also able to win in just two games. That gave him an edge in his army pool for the final games. Joe and I met up earlier this week to duke it out for the title of Manoeuvre Toeurnament Champion.

Game #24:
I knew with my 5 armies left I was at a disadvantage. I had the French, Austrians, Spanish, Ottomans and Americans left. Only 1 of the top 4 heavy hitters. Joe had the French, Russians, Prussians, Austrians, Spanish and Americans remaining. Fortunately Joe rolled a 10 and selected first. He chose the French and I went with my plan: throw the first game. I had to sacrifice one of the weaker armies so that I could get more favorable match-ups in the next two games. I went with the Spanish.

The first game wasn’t much of a match. The overpowering French army quickly scored hits on my guys. The Spanish reduced a few French units but I never drew the Guerrillas at the right time to prevent restoration. Joe didn’t take any play lightly so that at the end of the game, the Spanish lost 5 units while all 8 Frenchmen were at full strength.

Joe was now up 1 game to none, but I knew the next two would provide me with a good chance.

Game #25:
This time I rolled the 10 and selected the French. Joe deliberated and then selected the Prussians and their strong volley ability. The game started out well for me. I was able to move my units up and then foil Joe’s plans with a well timed Withdraw. The Prussians continued on though and took out the first unit of the game. My French traded that unit for one of his cavalry.

We each then positioned our units on the board hoping to set traps for the other. Some were successful while others fell through. We continued to trade hits and soon we were each down 3 units with about two thirds of our decks through. With nightfall coming, Joe pushed his Prussians forward. I allowed him to gain some ground so that I could take out two of his weaker units. I had reduced one and moved my cavalry in position to fire a bombard: 2d6 against a unit that was reduced to 3. I rolled the dice: snake eyes. That wasn’t supposed to happen. I was forced to follow up with an attack card I was hoping to save for the other unit. I took out 4 of Joe’s Prussians but the 5th unit held up in the woods would not quit. I was able to reduce it just to have them restored or supplied.

Nightfall approached, but with Joe’s Prussians well on my side of the board I didn’t stand a chance. Prussian get a well fought nightfall victory against the French.

Congratulations to Joe! Our 2011 Manoeuvre Toeurnament Champion

Final Toeurnament Stats:
Here’s the final army usage and win loss records.
French 3/5
British 6/3
Russian 5/5
Prussian 5/5
Austrian 1/1
Spanish 1/1
Ottoman 3/5
American 1/0
The top 4 armies and the Ottomans were the most used. The lowly Americans were only used once but won.

Conclusion:
Overall I think the Toeurnament was great. We had been talking about doing something like this, but just never got around to it. Now that it’s over I’m looking forwards to next year’s. In our group of friends, we always like some friendly competition. We play to win and generally don’t like to lose, but still have fun either way. Playing games where each win mattered added a certain intensity and rivalry that we all really enjoyed.

This also got us thinking as to how to run a tournament for other games. I think our next game to try will be open to a broader audience. So keep your eyes peeled for future posts about a possible Carcassonne Tournament. Please leave any suggestions on how to run it in the comments. Meanwhile, I’ll start working on a Golden Meeple trophy.


Rick’s 2010 Gaming Summary

January 4, 2011

After seeing John’s post last year summarizing his year of gaming statistics I thought it would be fun to track my plays in 2010. Here are the results:

Games Played: 313
Games Won: 168
Winning Percentage: 58%
The numbers don’t quite add up because games I play with my daughter are only counted as plays and not wins or losses and there were a few ties.

Best Gaming Month: January with 39 plays. More on this later…
Worst Gaming Month: April with 13 plays.

Best Gaming Buddies:
1. My awesome wife, Jess (170 plays)
2. My brother, Russ (40 plays)
3. John (39 plays)
4. My sister, Terri (37 plays)
5. David V. (21 plays)

Most Popular Games of 2010:
1. Carcassonne (46 plays)
2. Tobago (27 plays)
3. Small World (22 plays)
4. Manoeuvre (20 plays)
5. Memoir ’44 (18 plays)

Game I’m The Best At: Blokus (10 plays, 10 wins)
Game I’m The Worst At: Ca$h n’ Gun$ (8 plays, I’ve never won, 3 times I’ve been killed and my average place is 4 out of 5.5)

After my 39 play January I thought I could easily hit a play a day this year. With 2 young children and waiting for number 3 to arrive we had a lot of time to get 2-3 plays in each night. I made it a goal to play 365 times this year. After the slow spring months I realized this was going to be difficult. About half way through the summer I realized I would sometimes want to play a game just so I could hit my goal instead of just to enjoy a good board game. I dropped my goals and focused on fun. I still recorded my plays and was surprised to see I only needed about 50 more plays to hit 365. But I’m glad I worried about having fun instead of anything else.

After looking at the numbers I was surprised to see a couple of things. My 4th “Best Gaming Buddies” was my sister who lives two states away and I only see her a few times a year. Apparently we get a lot of games in when we see each other! I didn’t realize I had gone undefeated at Blokus. My challenge is for someone to beat me this year! A happy surprise was my first win of Here I Stand.

I wasn’t surprised by the number of Carcassonne plays. My wife and I got on a kick where we played every night for a couple of weeks. It’s also a nice easy game to teach new players (which I did 4-5 times this year). My lack of ‘skill’ with a foam gun was also not a surprise. I thought my gaming buddies liked me, but now I realize they just want to put a foam bullet between my eyes. But maybe 2011 will be different since I gave Russ the expansion for Christmas. Perhaps I’m better with a foam sword.

I’ve decided that one year of tracking all of my plays was enough for me. I still want to track certain games but for statistical information on strength of sides and best scenarios in games like Manoeuvre. I plan on using that information to follow through on a gaming goal in 2011: set-up a Manoeuvre tournament.

How was your 2010? And what’s your goal for 2011?


Closing Ceremonies at the Summer of Victory III

September 20, 2010

Between Memorial and Labor Day, those most American of holidays, I always make it a point to declare, “This summer is the summer of victory!” Alas, it was not so this summer. But the fates were against me, I tell you. Not only was I busy writing my master’s thesis, but my wife ended up on bedrest too as we awaited the birth of our first child. And Her Royal Cuteness came a few weeks early, roughly eight days before the summer was over. So it’s not my fault, I swear.

I’m sorry to report it was a summer of defeat, though by a relatively small margin. I played 38 games and won 17, a respectable .447 win average. I also played a nice mix of games, from Cribbage and Carcassonne to the World at War series and Washington’s War.  And there actually is a small glimmer of hope in all the number crunching. In two player games, I was 15-1-2, a phenomenal record in a wide variety of war and deep strategy games. I’m hoping this means good things when Joe returns from active duty (though he’ll probably still stomp me).

So although it wasn’t a “summer of victory” in the way I wanted, it was still an enjoyable few months of gaming. And these days, I’m learning all sorts of new tricks, including…how to game with a newborn in my arms. Awesome.


Boardgames and Birthdays

September 15, 2010

Monday evening as we were sitting at the dinner table my wife asked, “What do you want on your birthday cake?”
I looked at my 3 year old daughter and asked her, “What should Daddy have on his birthday cake. How about a board game?”
My three year old responded, “That’s wierd,” with a look to match, “How about flowers!”
I protest, “But I’m a boy.”
She quickly answers back, “They could be blue!”
As soon as I said board game, I could tell my wife started working on the design. “Do the girls have a hex shape in their toy downstairs?”
“Yes,” knowing where she is going with this, “and you could use the plastic figures, too.”

The next day, my birthday, is uneventful until I get home. My daughters and wife greet me at the door with hand made birthday cards. After some hugs, kisses and thank yous I go to the kitchen and find the birthday cake on the counter. Awesome:

Memoir '44 Themed B-Day Cake

Memoir '44 Themed B-Day Cake


Memoir '44 Themed B-Day Cake

Close-up on the delicious terrain


She did a great job with the all of the terrain ’tiles’. I was very impressed with the forests and hedgerows. It even looks like it could be halfway through an actual scenario from Memoir ’44.

I didn’t get to open my birthday gift since it hasn’t arrived yet. But I’m excited about my copy of Manoeuvre coming in a few weeks.

After dinner my wife and I played a game of Carcassonne. This is when her generosity ended.

Carcassonne

My blue meeples didn't do so well


Even though I scored a 52 point farm and 30 point bonus for goods at the end I still lost by ~30 points. But it was still a fun time and I had a great birthday.


Waiting…

July 8, 2010

My wife and I are expecting our third child, literally any day now. Our first two came early (4 and 3+ weeks) so we figured the third would probably be sooner rather than later. Because of this we have had a wide open calender since the end of June. To pass the time we’ve been playing a lot of board games.

We’ve gotten in a few games of Ingenious and Small World, but the staple has been our newly acquired copy of Carcassonne with the River, Inns & Cathedrals and Traders & Builders expansions. It’s a fun, light game that plays fairly quickly and helps pass the time.

But first let me explain something: I’ve played this game several times with friends and family and somehow have gotten the unfortunate title of “Jerk.” I look for the optimal move. This means I tend to make plays that help me and at the same time hinder others. I try to get in on everyone else’s big cities. If I’m scoring big every time some one else is, then I can’t lose, right? I’ll also try to sneak in an extra farmer near the end of the game to steal that ‘mega-farm’ away from someone. So, if someone plays in a way that would help themselves and hurt someone else that is called a “Rick-move” which is now synonymous with “jerk-move.” Oh well…

Since my wife and I have the free time and mostly play the game to pass time we’ll often help each other out or play sub-optimally. As my wife says, she likes it when the board looks ‘pretty’ at the end of a game. Often times we’ll find that there are holes that we can fill. It may help the other person but we lay the tile there anyway to please the eye. I’ll also point out better spots to my wife and why that spot is better. I try to help her get better at the game.

However, I think this sharing and helping is going to stop. Last night while we played I was working on a city and had added a Cathedral to it. (This makes a completed city worth 3 points per tile but an incomplete city worth 0 points.) Unfortunately the open area that I needed to cap off to complete the city was getting a little crowded. My wife then made a great Rick jerk-move by placing a tile one space away from my city which then made it impossible to complete. She then just flashed me a smile and said, “I think you’ve taught me too well.” Apparently, the student has become the master. I ended up losing that game.

Tonight (assuming she is not in labor) I think I’ll keep my mouth shut and play to win.

Update: We didn’t get that game in. We ended up in the hospital that night. The next morning my wife delivered a healthy baby boy.