Thoughts From The Gameroom

The ramblings of a Euro-gamer from South Dakota

Archive for January, 2008

Game Night With Three Newbies

Posted by sodaklady on January 26, 2008

Well, “newbies” might be stretching the truth just a bit. Patrick and Jana (from our New Year’s Eve Rockin’ Party) came over for board games and brought a friend, Dave. Patrick’s father has a large game collection so Patrick has played Axis and Allies, Age of Empires and Civilization; not exactly a game newbie. Dave also has always liked board games, even Sorry and Clue—but NOT Monopoly! I’m not sure what Jana’s gaming background is but she’s smart and enthusiastic. Richard rounded out the table so we were five.

After going through my collection of 5-player games, I had set out Coloretto, Ticket to Ride, Around the World in 80 Days, Ra, and Through the Desert. I thought they made a nice diverse selection of easy-to-teach, easy-to-grasp games since I wasn’t sure about Dave and Jana’s background in games.

I picked Coloretto to start the night on a light note and put Dave at ease with us two strangers. The rules explanation is so simple that it never really sounds like much of a game until you start playing and realize the tricky choices you have to make. Luckily, everyone playing enjoys a game with a “take that” aspect and they got into it very quickly. Dave, who sat with only a few cards in front of him and 3 or 4 “+2” cards came away the winner by one point, Jana and I tied right behind him. Everyone liked the game and Dave later asked me the name of it because he thought he’d like to pick it up.

Richard wanted to play with camels so Through the Desert was next. As we were setting up our beginning camel riders, I noted that you could effectively block someone by placing a like-colored camel a space away from someone else’s. This met with excited, gleaming eyes and before I knew it, the newcomers were blocking each other left and right. I was quick to point out that if you weren’t careful, you could also block yourself in quite nicely which is precisely what happened to Patrick. A group of three yellows in one corner kept him from needing to ask for a yellow camel all through the game. I was lucky not to get in the middle of all that blocking and came away the winner by a pretty large margin. Again, everyone enjoyed the game but no “ooo’s” and “ahh’s” although that might be partly from the mess they’d put themselves into. I hope they’ll try it again another day.

Next was Ra because Patrick had picked up the box to pull Through the Desert out of the stack and was, I think, immediately taken with the heft of it so had taken off the lid and was thrilled with all the tiles. The explanation of Ra always seems a little muddled no matter how I go about it but we pressed on, Richard and I offering tips and suggestions. Patrick had an amazing first round that lasted a looong time and set him up for the win. About half way through the game, I noticed that they had become more quiet than in the other two games and I began to think it was a total flop. The truth was that they were just thinking and digesting the concept, and were so taken with it that they asked to play again. I was thrilled. I’d hoped that at least one of the games would be a hit and asked for again, but I was surprised that it was Ra. Well, I guess I can stand to play Ra whenever it’s requested! *wink*

In the second game, everyone felt a little more confidence in what they were doing and Dave, who had done poorly in the first game, spent his first 4 turns calling Ra in hopes of collecting some tiles on the cheap. Unfortunately, that was not to happen. He did just as poorly in the second game, coming in a distant last compared to Jana’s win with a kick-butt collection of Monuments. He said it was strange but even when he knew he was losing, he was still enjoying the game. Now you can’t ask for more than that from a game, can you? Ra was the hit of the night.

Around the World in 80 Days was next on the list. What can I say about this game? It’s a great family game, not terribly deep but with a nice twist—the race isn’t necessarily won by the first to cross the finish line, but by the one who crosses in the least amount of days. I don’t think that truly sunk in until we were nearing the end of the game. I had hung back all through the game, lagging behind by a city, then two cities and towards the end, three cities. But I had made some good choices and managed to catch up and finish in time to qualify. I won with 70 days compared Jana’s first-to-reach-London’s 78 days. Again, they all enjoyed the game and could see the cleverness of it but it wasn’t the Wow that Ra was, although Jana said it was her favorite game we’d played.

We were all a little tired by now (11:30 or so) but they wanted one more game so I pulled out Tsuro. Light, quick, and a different style from the other games we’d played. The game starts out so boring, really, that I don’t think they realized there was any point to it until the end. Jana, whether by accident or because she was forced to play a sub-optimal tile, managed to eliminate herself and Richard with one fell swoop, and place David in a precarious position that eliminated him on his next move. This left Patrick and me, facing off near the edge of the board. I took a daring route, headed straight for him in hopes that he’d have to force himself off the board, but unfortunately, he had the perfect tile and turned my little man around and marched him into oblivion while saving his own hide. It was a good game to end the night with, light enough for tired minds but with a kind of a “huh, look at that” nature to it.

The “newbie” game night was a success; everyone had a great time and want to do it again when Patrick’s busy schedule permits. Finally! After 4 years of being a board game geek, it looks like I might have found a regular group of people to play with.

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My Husband Is One Of Santa’s Elves

Posted by sodaklady on January 5, 2008

It all started with a doll cradle, a design which was improved after our daughter (at the age of 2) sat in hers and broke the bottom out. When Richard retired from the Air Force and started working for a local home center, he decided to build doll cradles for all the people he worked with that had little girls. For the little boys, he found a sturdy design for a dump truck with a handle to lift the bed. (I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of one.) Now every year, he finds new designs and, of course, there’s always a few new cradles to build.

Doll Cradle

The cradles have a cartoon character on one end and the girl’s name on the other.

Wooden toy car

The little car which looks to me like a Volkswagen Beetle, was one of the first and still my favorite.

Grasshopper Pull Toy

The grasshopper was a step in another direction, an animated pull toy, and he had many people ask for  them. A few were modified by request, made wider with holes in the body to hold crayons.

Wooden Steamroller

Last year’s model was a steamroller.

Keepsake Box

For an older girl, he built a small keepsake chest. The curved lid and beautiful dove-tailing made it a lovely piece. Inside is a removable shelf that rests near the top of the box.

Wooden Road Grader and Front-end Loader

This year he built road graders and front-end loaders for the boys.  One of the older ladies he works with got one of each for her two grandsons.  She came to work the day after Christmas and told Richard what a big hit they were.  The toys had not been wrapped but set in front of the packages under the tree so when the children came downstairs on Christmas morning, they were the first thing that caught their eyes.  “Santa’s elves came!”  I can just imagine a child’s amazement to find wooden toys under the tree—the kind they’d seen Santa’s elves building in many movies and cartoons.

 The wonderful thing is that of all the fancy, expensive toys that they received, these two wooden toys were the ones they played with all day.  Could there be a bigger compliment than that?

Posted in Non-gaming, Wooden Toys | 15 Comments »

A Happy New Year

Posted by sodaklady on January 2, 2008

I’ve never been one to become pensive or nostalgic just because the calendar says I should but I do want to wish everyone a happy, healthy, peace-filled new year anyway.  I don’t make resolutions for the new year but I hope to start writing more even if it isn’t about board games.  I hope you’ll bear with me if I just write about whatever is on my mind.

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For Christmas my wonderful husband bought me Rock Band, which I had been obsessing over ever since my friend, Mike, brought his Xbox 360 and the gear over to show it to us.  On New Year’s Eve, we invited 4 people (2 men and 2 women) over who were interested in trying it out.  One of the guys was also intrigued by Richard’s description of a couple of my games, Wings of War and Bolide so that’s how the evening started.

 Richard and our 4 guests, Jeremy, Elizabeth, Jenna and her boyfriend, Patrick, gathered around the pool table downstairs to try a one-lap race.  I knew that each additional player would greatly increase the playing time with so many new players so I declined my husband’s invitation and continued watching the Twilight Zone episode I was in the middle of (a wonderfully done episode where a German concentration camp commander returns to his camp years later and finds the ghosts of the people he’d tortured and killed).

 Fifteen minutes later when I went downstairs, they were making their way through the first turn of the British track.  Patrick picked up the concept right away and was in the lead.  Jeremy and Jenna got the idea after the second turn but, sadly, Elizabeth never did understand.  It didn’t matter how many times I showed her or in what manner I tried to explain the concept that the “pin” was simulating, by the last corner of the race, she was still trying to put her car wherever she wanted with no regard for where the pin was located.  Oh, well, everyone said they enjoyed it—but maybe some of them were just being polite.

 After a break for snacking, it was time to start Rockin’!  Richard and I played one song to show everyone what the screen looked like and how the instruments worked then handed over the guitar and drumsticks to someone else.  At first, they were reluctant but we finally got everyone to try something at least once.  Patrick, who had said earlier that he just came to watch, found that he loved the guitar.  In fact, by the end of the evening, he was getting more than 90% of the notes even on the harder songs.  I think the fact that he’s an avid video gamer helped him pick it up so quickly.  Jeremy sucked at the drums the first time he tried but before he left, he’d managed to get through the hardest songs and wanted to get the game for himself.  Jenna did pretty well on both the drums and the guitar but enjoyed the drums more.  She really excelled at singing even though she said she didn’t like to sing and thought it was kind of boring.  Elizabeth turned out to be our biggest fan.  Yeah, she didn’t enjoy playing any of the instruments but she had a great time watching and listening to us yammer on about how we did on the last song.

 The evening finally broke up about 1:00 and everyone had had a great time.  I also found out that Patrick’s dad is a board game collector and has about 900 games.  I’m not sure what they are but Patrick has played Carcassonne, Age of Empires, Civilization, and Axis and Allies.  He’s interested in coming over to try some of my collection so I’m looking forward to a game night with him and Jenna when we can get everyone’s schedule coordinated.  I think this was one of the best New Year’s Eves I’ve ever had, full of fun and laughter and good people.

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