Sunday, March 23, 2008

Weekend Gaming

I had a great gaming weekend.

Talking About Games

I was invited out for both meals. In both meals, my hosts or the other guests were fascinated by the idea of someone interested in board and card games, and I ended up talking about them a lot. I wasn't trying to monopolize the conversation, I promise; they were just excited to talk about it.

Something about the idea of taking games and fun seriously just gives some people a thrill. Others think the idea is silly; for those people, I can talk about less important things like politics, religion, literature, and so on.

Word Games

After dinner, I had a willing group of participants eager to play games. Luckily, I always have a head full of games, the easiest of which are word games. No components needed, easy to understand, and fun for non-gamers. My group was two thirteen years old girls, a seventeen year old girl, and a mom.

The first two games I tried were Opposites and Alphabet Minute. Both of these games really need to be played with rigid time constraints for each move; otherwise they just drag on and peter off. That's what they did here. My trouble is that I let people get the feel for the game by taking as much time as they need to come up with a word/sentence on their turn, and then never force them into playing with the time limit.

It also didn't help that they had trouble remembering in which order the alphabet was and a hard time creating sentences starting with a certain letter of the alphabet altogether, let alone one that continued the conversation of the previous player.

I decided to move on to Password, which turned out to be a HUGH hit. I don't know if I'd ever gotten a chance to actually play the game, and I always suspected that it would be really good. And wow, it was really good.

Password requires 5 players, optimally. There are two teams of two players each, and one manager. The manager creates the words or phrases that have to be guessed and then whispers the word or phrase to the hint giver on each team. The manager also judges and penalizes play violations.

Each round works as follows: the manager whispers a word or phrase to one member of each team. Starting with the team that lost the previous round, the member who knows the word or phrase speaks a single word (can't be a word from the answer, of course) in order to help his or her teammate guess the hidden word or phrase. The other team member has one shot to guess. If he or she gets it wrong, the other team has a go, and so on until one team gets the correct answer.

The intriguing part of the game is that you can listen to the clues and mistaken guesses of the other team. And you get to laugh at the weird clues and guesses that everyone makes.

We had a blast; lots of great clues, lots of great hints, lots of great guesses. And of course, lots of really bad hints and guesses. We played twice. And from what I hear, they were still playing it the next day.

Board Games

The next day was at Nadine's. She brought out It's Alive for the first game, which was fun.

The second game was 1960: The Making of the President. This was my first play.

1960 is a two-player area control election game. The only other election game I have played is Die Macher, and there are some similarities, but not many.

I enjoyed myself. We probably played a few things wrong. There was a lot of strategy and tactics; yet, I can see how familiarity with the cards and possible events will lead to deeper understanding of the workability of some strategies over others.

Without that understanding - possibly with the understanding anyway - there was a tad too much luck with the card draw. Some cards are just too good to be allowed to end up in only one player's hand throughout the course of the game. It would be nice to draw twice the number of cards each round and discard half of them; but then the tight decision of which cards to play and which cards to save for the debate wouldn't work.

On the plus side you have lots of possibilities with each card, and even bad cards can be used in good ways; or they're bad in one way but better in another. There are dozens of avenues to explore. You get to learn a great deal about the events from 1960.

It's a tad longer than the two player games I tend to play. But first game: I'm fascinated. Enjoyed it. Looking forward to playing again.


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