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.

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Gaming on the Go: Guatemala Preview

January 13, 2010

Gaming on the Go is a feature about boardgames and travel.

In a few days, I’ll be headed down to Guatemala for the first time, leading a group of students on a service trip. The past months have been all about getting passports ready, transportation arranged, and fundraising coffee sold, but as I start to pack for the trip itself, I think about our free time (and gaming). We’ve been told by the volunteer coordinators at our service site that things get pretty quiet at night, and we are encouraged to bring along cards and small games for entertainment.

Fully aware that my group consists of senior (17-18 years old) boys, I’m opting to bring  rules for some simple but highly interactive card and dice games. Here are my choices:

  • Mafia (known commercially as Werewolf) is a basic interaction game in which a group of villagers attempt to discover who is secretly killing them off one by one. I used to play this with my campers when I was a camp counselor–good gory fun. I greatly enjoy playing the Narrator and just watching the action.
  • Cribbage is small and versatile–you can play with partners or individually. A few of the other trip participants are bringing boards down too, so there’s the potential for a tournament over the course of the week, on the plane ride, in airports killing time, etc.
  • Dirty Clubs is a very simple trick-taking card game that is equally fun with five or ten players. At the start of each round, you wager how many tricks you think you’ll take based on the power of the cards in your hand. Bid over or under the actual number of tricks you take and you lose points. Lots of tension in this game.
  • Ten Thousand (known commercially as Farkel) is a dice game in which players simply roll six dice, determine which ones score them points, and then opt to pass or keep rolling dice. Stretch yourself too thin and you’ll get nothing. I was introduced to this by my in-laws, and it fills a certain niche: an incredibly simple game that a seven-year old could play that allows you to hold a conversation about something else while playing.
  • Pacific Typhoon is a WWII-themed trick-taking game from GMT. I just got this for Christmas, and have quickly found it is easy to learn but hard to master. Lots of opportunities for backstabbing, with a theme they’ll find accessible and interesting.

It’s amazing how much you can get out of a deck of cards, a cribbage board, a set of dice, and a very small gamebox. Hopefully these will provide some evening entertainment after a long day of physical labor. I’d love to hear about your favorite travel games; leave a comment below.