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.