Games Gist

Family Gaming

Gaming at Estes Park

We took the family to a cabin in Estes Park CO for a family retreat. The grandkids are out of school, as well as their parents (who are teachers) this week for spring break. We all had a great time and played quite a few games. We played these card and board games: 

  • Scavenger Hunt (x2)
  • Taboo (x3)
  • Risk Godstorm
  • Lord of the Rings Confrontation (x2)
  • Loot (x4)
  • Scattergories
  • Bohnanza (x2)
  • Pickomino
  • Settlers of Catan
  • Station Master

 This list does not include games played on a Nintendo 64, online, or on the PC. 

Scavenger Hunt is a fun and funny game. Dan, Joel, and I played two games. We randomly drew a lair card each, to determine which scavenger we were playing. I drew the Hyena, Joel drew the Leopard, and Dan the Crocodile. In past games, it appeared that the Crocodile was the most powerful scavenger and usually won the game. However, by using the special ingestion power of the Hyena, I kept grabbing low-score carcasses, while the Crocodile and the Leopard were fighting over the big carcasses, which allowed me to win the game (barely). We were all at a score of 90 or 95 for the last round, and I managed to get a 10-point carcass back to my lair before they could drag their loot home. In the second game, Joel wanted us to play with two scavengers, each, so we drew randomly again. Joel got the Leopard and the Vulture; Dan was the Crocodile and the Jackal; I was the Hyena and Lizard. We agreed that each scavenger would score separately, and we had to designate which scavenger we used for each turn. Joel put the Vulture into flying mode over the savannah for the entire game and scored carcasses with the Leopard. I made a mistake of taking one carcass with each of my scavengers at the beginning of the game, which divided my points. Joel’s die rolls consistently beat Dan’s Crocodile, even with its +3 bonus. It was again a close game, and Joel won. 

We played Taboo, males against females. If I recall correctly, the females won each game, although they were all close. Taboo always includes a lot of laughter, as the current player tries to think of a clever clue without saying the forbidden words on the card. We had only a few instances of someone saying a “taboo” word, although there were some very tough cards. One of my cards looked easy; the word was CLIFF. But, every clue I thought about used one of the words I couldn’t say, until I said, “First name of the postman on Cheers.” 

This was my first time to play Risk Godstorm, a game that Dan and Joel have enjoyed a lot. Joel, Dan, Mason, Kassi, and I played only a two-Epoch game, which took two hours. Part of the length was due to the fact that Kassi and I had not played it before, and it took us a lot of time to decide what to do during our turns. Early in the game, Mason and Dan had been whittled down a lot on the Earth board and were battling it out on the Underworld board. I managed to cut back Kassi’s Earth forces, and she began challenging Dan and Mason in the Underworld. Joel made some good moves to recover a lot of Earth territory in his last turn, but I had the most Victory Points and won the game. I can’t imagine how long it would take to play five Epochs with five players, unless they were all well-experienced. 

Lord of the Rings Confrontation was interesting. It looks like (and is) a simple game to learn. Knizia amazes me with many of his game designs. How he managed to keep a reasonable flavor of the book in a game that looks and plays much like Stratego on a very small board and with only a few cards is almost incomprehensible. Dan and Joel had played this several times, and the Dark Side always won, no matter who played it. So, Dan let me be the Dark Side for the first game, and I did indeed win. But, I surprised him by also winning the second game with the Fellowship side. I managed to move Frodo around one side of the board by himself most of the way (which was a dangerous ploy, but fairly true to the story), while decoying the other side with Legolas. When I neared Mordor, Dan had one character there, and I joined Sam with Frodo and used a mutual sacrifice card to eliminate his character, while he had only two characters near the Shire. Careful card play, matched with the characters’ powers, make this an interesting game, different every time. I liked the quick play, easy rules, and LotR flavor. A neat game for two people. 

We all enjoy playing Loot. That has become a favorite with several of us. Dan, Joel, and I played two games, followed by two games with Dan, Sue, Katrina, and me. We didn’t write down the scores, but enjoyed all four games. I do recall that Joel beat Dan and me in one of the games. In the first game, I was dealt the Admiral, which came in handy later. In one of the games, I was dealt the green pirate captain, but never drew a single green pirate ship in the entire game, which made that card useless to me. That was hard to believe. Loot plays very differently, depending on the number of players (not too unusual, I suppose, in gaming). I enjoy 2-player games, 3 or 4-player games, and 7 or 8-player games. The game box says it is playable by 2-8 players, but it is a bit unusual to find a game that is as much fun with 2 as with 8 players. Loot is such a game. But, naturally, you have to play differently, depending upon how many players there are. It is fairly common in a 2-player game to be able to save many of your treasure ships, without playing pirates on them, while it is rare to be able to do so in an 8-player game. With more players, you really have to attack other ships carefully and pay attention to all the ships on the table at the same time, so no one gets a large treasure without a tough battle. I like this game very much. 

Natalia has become a fan of Scattergories and asks to play it whenever the rest of us are willing to do so. We allow her and Joel to use the letter rolled on the die, plus one other letter adjacent to it (in the alphabet) for their answers. In a five-player game with Natalia, Joel, Katrina, Sue, and me, the final scores (three rounds) had everyone but Joel at 16 points, while he had 10. Joel probably will be scoring very well with a couple more years of living and education, and Natalia is getting better at it. In a couple of years, she will have to play just the same letter that the adults do. 

All of us enjoy Bohnanza, and these two games were fun. Joel is a whiz at this game. He won the first game we played this weekend (as usual). Results: Joel first (11 gold); me second (10); Kassi, Mason, and Natalia (tied) third (9); Sue and Katrina (tied) sixth (8); and Dan last (6). In the second game, the scores switched quite a bit, although Joel was still in the top two. It was the first game of Bohnanza that we have played in 2007 that Joel didn’t either win or tie for the win. Results: Sue first (13); Joel second (12); Dan and Katrina (tied) third (10); me fifth (9); Kassi, Mason, and Katrina (tied) last (8). 

Pickomino is an easy game that has become a family favorite. With eight players, it only takes three or four worms to win the game. Results: Me first; Kassi, Natalia, and Katrina (tied) second; Joel fifth; Sue, Mason, and Dan (tied) last. 

Mason had really missed playing Settlers of Catan for the past couple of weeks, and he requested I bring it to the retreat. With 7 players, we play to only seven Victory Points. I couldn’t get anywhere in this game. I was first player and started on a nice 5-8-9 intersection, which did okay for me. But, I got almost completely cut-off and surrounded by other players very quickly. I finally decided that I had to go for the best finish I could get with Development Cards. I managed to buy only four of them, but two were VP cards, with two Soldiers. I had hoped to get the Largest Army, which with the VP cards and my one city and one settlement would have won the game, but Dan beat me to the Largest Army and won the game before I could steal it. Results: Dan first; Joel and Mason (tied) second; Sue, Kassi, and me (tied) fourth; Katrina last. 

Kassi has really taken to Station Master, which everyone else seems to like, too. I really enjoy this game. When the first two trains had been scored, these were the standings: Kassi 129, Mason 97, Joel 93, Sue, Katrina, and me (tied) 70, and Dan 45. The final results were: Me first (234); Dan second (196); Mason third (179), Kassi fourth (159), Katrina fifth (137), and Sue and Joel (tied) last (117). With two trains left in the game, my hand was three yellow cards (no point cards). At the time, Dan’s score was 214, while I was at 204. On my last play, I played a card that allowed me to shift three passenger tokens from one train to another. I moved two of Dan’s tokens from a high-scoring train to one that ended with a negative value. He lost 28 points, while I gained 30, giving me the win. Scores in this game change rapidly, and it’s important to keep up with the relative standing, to make the best decisions on where to play which cards. With 7 players, it can be difficult to get your passenger tokens on the trains where you want to be, because they often fill up before you have a chance to commit yourself. It’s very rare to be able to get more than one token on any train, but it can happen, especially with the few 8- and 7-passenger locomotives. Joel enjoys playing “spoiler” and playing negative value cards on other people’s trains, but that doesn’t seem to be a good strategy for winning. You have to have passenger tokens on trains and try to make them score with high positive numbers, so defense doesn’t work well with that many players. 

We all had a great time, and I enjoyed learning two new games (and winning them). Next weekend, Mason and Kassi won’t be joining us. I’d like to get out Drakon again, but will have to see what the rest of the family wants to play. 

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March 27, 2007 - Posted by | Family Gaming, Games

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