Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2012 Holiday Gift Guide

This guide includes games for young and old, for every sex, generation, temperament, and culture.

Whatever you do, and whatever you celebrate, there is no better way to spend a Christmas, Hanukkah, or what have you than together with friends, family, and neighbors with a warm cup of (fair trade) cocoa and a stack of casual board and/or card games.

The overwhelming majority of the games listed here are meant for newer players, non gamers or the like. I don't list the complicated, heavier games for gamers only.

I hope you enjoy the guide. Remember: the holidays are not only for sharing the warmth with family and friends, but also for sharing with those who have no one else to share with them. Give to your local shelters, hospitals, and so on, because that's the gift that keeps on giving.
Apple iPad 2

I'm starting with this unusual choice for a board game list, because the iPad (and other tablets) is a perfect platform for playing thousands of face to face games for two to four players. Because you don't need to buy the physical components, you can stack all your games in a teeny space, the games (if not the tablet) cost very little, and you don't have to cut down old trees to make them or use fossil fuels to ship them. Tablets have their own environmental impact in their making, so that's a trade off; but if you're getting one anyway, most of the games on this list are available electronically.
7 Wonders: Ages 9+, 4 to 7 players

This game took the gaming world by storm last year (and, like Dominion, it uses an auxiliary mechanic from Magic: The Gathering tournaments). This is a game of drafting cards. You get a hand of cards; pick one and pass the rest. Everyone reveals the card they picked and puts it into their tableaux. Repeat. Done. Score points based on the combinations of cards you have at the end of all the passing.

The graphics are fantastic, the theme not so visible. It's easy to learn, with depth enough to spare.
Apples to Apples: Ages 9+, 4 to 10 players

Apples to Apples is a party game that is simple to set up, learn, and play. There is no writing involved, and no board. And unlike many party games, reading all the cards doesn't ruin the game.

Each player has a hand of red apples (nouns) with which they have to match the green apple (adjective) flipped up. Each player has a chance to judge the best match. The cards you have in your hand never exactly match what gets flipped up; you have to do your best!
Antike: Ages 8+, 2 to 6 players

Risk is a long game of laying low, with player elimination and just too much in the luck department; this game is the perfect evolution to, and replacement for, Risk.

It plays quicker, there's dice-less conflict, no one gets to lay low watching while others fight, and - excepting truly poor play - everyone has a chance for most of the game. There's also a lot more to the game than just conflict, but the rules are short and elegant.

Unfortunately, it's out of print, so it's a bit hard to find, and pricey when you find it.
Backgammon: Ages 6+, 2 players

Backgammon is a classic game that can be enjoyed by children and parents alike. While there is a large amount of luck in the game, there are also many meaningful decisions, which makes this a good stepping stone to future games with more challenge, such as Checkers or Chess.
Blokus, Blokus Trigon, Blokus Duo: Ages 8+, 4 players (Blokus), 2-4 players (Blokus Trigon), or 2 players (Blokus Duo)

Blokus, Blokus Trigon, and Blokus Duo are abstract games with very simple rules. Each round you take a piece and place it on the board such that it touches any previous pieces you have played, but only corner to corner. It can touch other players' pieces along corners or sides.

The rules are easy, the components are beautiful, and it's a lot of fun.
Boggle: Ages 8+, 2 to 10 players

Boggle is a word game, whose simple rules - find all the words you can within three minutes - make it a game that is both fun and quick. Adults can play with kids by restricting the adults to have to find words of four or five letters.
Carcassonne, variants, and expansions: Ages 10+, 2 to 5 players

Carcassonne is a bit more complex than some of the other games here, but the beautiful pieces and the fun game play are worth the time to learn. Pick a piece from the pile, rotate and place it so that it fits on the board (like dominoes), and then optionally place one of your pieces on that tile. There are several ways to score, some of which occur during the game and some of which only at the end of the game.

There are some more rules than that, but not too many more. The game play is engaging enough to make you want to play it more than once in a single sitting.

There are dozens of versions to the game, and some of the versions have several expansions. The one that I linked to is called "Hunters and Gatherers" and is a good standalone game to start with.
Chess / Xiangqi / Shogi: Ages 6+, 2 players

These three games, Chess, XiangQi (Chinese Chess), and Shogi (Japanese Chess), are all top-tier 2-player games that can occupy a curious mind for an entire lifetime. They also have wide followings, so learning the game is learning a language that will admit you to a culture of fellow players around the world.

Board and piece prices range from inexpensive to very expensive, and Chess pieces come in many different themes.
Chinese Checkers: Ages 6+, 2 to 6 players

Another great abstract, and a pretty one if you find one with nice marbles. The rules are simple: move or jump your pieces from one side to the other. Finding chains of jumps is a thrill for all ages.
Carrom / Crokinole / Nok-Hockey / Air Hockey / Billiards / Foosball, etc.: Ages 6+, 2 players

Carrom is the most played tabletop game in India. Like Billiards, the object is to knock pieces off the table area, which you do by flicking wooden disks with your fingers. Crokinole is another classic finger flicking game, as is a racing game called Pitchcar. All kinetic tabletop games, from snooker to billiards to foosball, are loved by players of all ages.
Playing Cards: Ages 3+, 1 to any number of players

Decks of cards, whether they are the well known Western type with 52 cards in 4 suits, or special European or Asian decks, are a great starting point for any number of wonderful games, including Bridge, Hearts, Skat, Cribbage, Pinochle, Oh Hell, Bullsh*t, Durak, President, Spades, Solitaire, and many others.

Check out for the rules to these games and to thousands of others.
Dominion: Ages 10+, 2-4 players

Dominion is a game based around deck building: as you play, you acquire cards which get shuffled into your deck. You need victory points to score, but too many early victory points will clog up your deck, making it harder to acquire more points.

A brilliant adaptation of a mechanic, it plays quickly and every game plays differently. The game has several expansions, all of which are good.
Froggy Boogie: Ages 3-9, 2 to 4 players

Froggy Boogie is a brilliant game to frustrate grownups and please younger children. All you have to do is remember where the picture of the fly is, under the left eye or the right eye? The dice have only colors - no counting necessary. It's a perfect first game.
Go / Pente: Ages 6+, 2 players

Beyond Chess, Checkers, or XiangQi is the absolute perfect game of Go (aka Weiqi); it's so popular, there are twenty-four hour television stations dedicated to it, an anime series based on it, and it's considered one of the four arts of the Chinese scholar.

It really is that good, and the rules are easy, too. Best of all, a built-in handicap system allows two people of any skill levels to enjoy a challenging game against each other.

The link I provided is to a nice-looking board; you should really play with the nicest board you can afford.

Pente, a game of getting five stones in a row, can be played on the same board. The rules are just as easy as Go, and while the game has much less depth, it is also a little less intimidating to new players.
It's Alive!: Ages 7+, 2 to 4 players

A little plug for my own game. This is a simple set-collection auction game with a Frankenstein theme. It fits in well with the other games on the list: easy to learn, quick to play, lots of replayability.

Of course, I may be biased, since I designed it. This game was published by Reiver Games. There is an iOS version, too.

I have launched a Kickstarter project to create a new version of this game with a Hanukkah theme. You can support the project right now - and pre-order the game - on Kickstarter.
Jungle Speed: Ages 8+, 3 to 8 players

There are several games of speed reaction / pattern recognition on the market; I chose this one because of the components. Players flip cards in turn and grab for the totem in the middle as soon as two matching cards are revealed. Don't play with friends who have sharp nails or finger jewelery.
Magic the Gathering: Ages 8+, 2 players

After nearly two decades, Magic is still The Bomb when it comes to collectible card games, although Yu-Gi-Oh sells more cards. These are not easy games to learn, but quick start guides can get you off the ground fairly quickly, and then you have months and years of challenging game play ahead of you.

Don't get sucked into having to buy endless amounts of boosters; to play the game outside of a tournament, you only need a few hundred common cards which can be picked up for a penny each on various sites.
Mancala: Ages 5+, 2 players

This is widely known around the world under various names (e.g. Oware), and the national game of many African countries.

The rules are easy: pick up all the seeds in one of your bowls and place one in each bowl around the table. If you land on an empty space on your side, you win the seed and any seeds opposite.

There are a few more rules, but that's about it. It takes a few games to get up to speed; early victories tend to be lopsided. Once you get the hang of it, you can play several, quick, challenging games in succession.
Memory: Ages 3 to 12, 2 to 5 players

This is a first game for kids and adults, and a great game for it, because kids get the hang of it very quickly and adults find it a real challenge without having to pretend. All you need are one or two decks of cards, but an infinite number of these games are sold with various different pictures and themes.

You can play with more than 5 players, but I wouldn't recommend it.
No Thanks: Ages 7+, 3 to 5 players

This is an easy to learn and addictive little card game. A card is flipped up, and you either take the card and any tokens on it or place one of your tokens on it and pass it to the next player. Cards are bad, and tokens are good. But runs of cards only penalize you for the lowest valued card.

A simple and fun game.
Parade: Ages 7+, 3 to 5 players

Another easy to learn and addictive little card game. Add cards to the end of the "parade", taking cards from the parade into your pile based on a few simple rules. Points are bad ... usually.
Pit: Ages 7+, 4 to 10 players

I don't know if you can play up to 10 players with the original game, but you should. This is a loud trading game. The cards are dealt out, someone says go, and everyone shouts for what they need. The first player to collect a full set wins.

Raucous and fun. The deluxe version comes with it's own bell to signal the start of trading.
Poker: Ages 6+, 2 to any number of players

Playing for money is not a good habit, but a nice set of poker chips and some decks of cards is a great way to spend an evening. There are countless poker games, too.
Puerto Rico: Ages 10+, 3 to 5 players

Go is my favorite two-player game; this is my favorite multi-player game. I hadn't included it in previous years because I thought it might be too complex for the beginning player, but I think I've been underestimating people. I've seen new players pick it up and love it.

It's not easy to learn, but it's not that hard, either; it's just hard to master. A brilliant, brilliant game engine.

I've linked to the deluxe version, which includes some nice metal pieces and a few expansions.
R-eco: Ages 9+, 2 to 5 players

This is another short and sweet card game, with simple clever mechanics that leads to enjoyable but no stress game play. Easy to learn and easy to play.
Rummikub: Ages 7+, 2 to 4 players

A game of rummy, but a good one. And also playable with the grand-folks.
Scrabble: Ages 8+, 2 (or 2 to 4) players.

Scrabble purists will tell you that you should only play with 2 players and a Chess clock, but for casual purposes it can be played with up to four. It is The word game, and for a good reason.

My favorite way to play is to ditch the board and just play Anagrams: turn over tiles, and first to call a word gets it. A similar, recommended game is Bananagrams, where players race to create their own crossword boards.
Set: Ages 6+, 2 to 10 players

Those who don't have it won't enjoy it. For those who do, it hits just the right spot in the brain. All you have to do is call out matches when you see them, but the matches have to match or not match in all four characteristics.
The Settlers of Catan: Ages 8+, 3 to 4 players

This is the perfect game for beginning adult gamers that I use to hook new players into my game group.

All you need to do is collect ten points through building settlements and cities, connecting roads, adding developments and trading with your fellow players. A unique board that changes each time you play, constant interaction even when it's not your turn, and a great balance of luck versus strategy makes this The Game to acquire if you still think that board games are only for kids.

I've linked to the deluxe 15th anniversary edition.
Shadows Over Camelot: Ages 12+, 3 to 7 players

A cooperative game, this is no feel-good game of cooperation. The hordes of Saxons, Mordred, siege engines, and sinister knights are out to destroy Camelot, and you have to work together to save it. But lurking among the players is a traitor who wins if you all lose. Or is there?

Pretty components, albeit more complex than most of the games on this list. But it's easy for people to join and leave midgame.

Other recommended co-operative games that have made a splash in the last few years are Pandemic and Forbidden Island
Stratego: Ages 6 to 15, 2 players

By the time I was in my teens, I had outgrown this, but it remains a seminal game for early players, a great introductory war game with all the basic elements: strategy, tactics, and bluffing. Avoid the electronic ones; they break and they're noisy.
Through the Desert: Ages 8+, 2 to 5 players

This is an elegant route building game with a bunch of different scoring opportunities on each play. Simply place two camels on each turn to expand your camel trains. At the end, you score for oases collected, longest trains, and encircled areas.
Ticket To Ride: Ages 8+, 2 to 5 players

Many of my fellow bloggers think that this, rather than Settler of Catan, is The Game. I disagree, but who am I to argue? New players will probably find this a great intro game, with lots of choices and great game play.

There are several editions of the game.
Tichu: Ages 8+, 4 players

A partnership "ladder" game, similar to the game President (sometimes known by its crude name). It's similar, but the addition of a few special cards, a partnership, and passing elevate this to a perfect game for two couples. This is THE card game in gamer circles, and it's not at all complicated.
Time's Up: Ages 8+, 4 to 10 players

This consistently ranks as the number one party game on all of my fellow bloggers' lists. It's the number one ranked party game on Board Game Geek. Which says something.

It plays a lot like the parlor game Celebrities.
Uno: Ages 6 to 12, 2 to 8 players

This could be a child's second game, after Memory, and before moving on to real games. There's not much in the way of thinking involved, but its simple rules, portability, and quick play make it an ideal game for younger kids in almost any situation.

Just be sure to move up to better games when the kids are ready.
Wits and Wagers / Balderdash: Ages 8+, 4+ players

These are party trivia games where knowledge of trivia is not so important. The question is asked, and each player writes down an answer. These are revealed and players then bid on the answers they think are best. The winning answer, and the winning bids, all score points.

Wits and Wagers does this in the form of a poker game setting, while Balderdash requires you to make up funny possible answers. Both have won awards and acclaim as a generation better than you-know-which famous trivia game.
Zooloretto: Ages 8+, 2 to 5 players

Winner of dozens of recent awards, Zooloretto is a cute game for kids and decent game for adults. Simply take the animals as they are revealed from the deck and try to fit them into your zoo without overcrowding.

A few extra rules and some clever mechanisms makes the game enjoyable for all ages.


An Analysis of Monopoly, or Why Monopoly is Worse than Poker

The game of Monopoly (I am considering the four player game played without house rules) is played over four phases that are roughly distinct.
  • In the first phase, players are randomly given properties by the roll of the dice. It is unusual that you should not buy a property on which you land, so everyone generally buys everything they land on. (It's possible that, at some point, your opponents have too little money, in which case it may be worth auctioning the property off and buying it for less (just enough to outbid your opponents); I suspect that this is a rare occurrence.)
  • In the second phase, players trade properties in order to accumulate monopolies. It is unusual that you receive a monopoly from the first phase through random dice rolling (in a four player game); if you do, you already have a huge advantage. Trading takes some skill, but not a whole lot of skill if you know the actual values and expected ROI of the monopolies. Still, the negotiation can give you a leg up in the next phases.
  • In the third phase, players build houses and hotels on their monopolies. It is known that the the sweet spot is three houses, both because of the large rent leap from two to three houses and because of the limitation of houses available to build during the game. The skill in this phase is in managing your cash flow; if you have a row of opponent properties in front of you, you must keep your cash to avoid mortgaging properties. There is a bit of skill in the odds calculation here, but not much.
  • In the last phase of the game, players roll the dice repeatedly until all players but one are eliminated from the game. There are - essentially - no interesting decisions in this phase.
With any set of players who are not total morons, who have a rudimentary understanding of probability, and who know the relative property values on the board, there is little chance that the players' holdings will vary much in value by the time the fourth phase is entered. One player's properties might be landed on 16.2% of the time, while another player's only 12.8% of the time. The first player is in a better position. And I suspect that both players had some fun during the negotiations and resource management up to this point. But here's where the problem starts.

In poker, you may have a hand that wins 16.2% of the time and your opponent a hand that wins 12.8% of the time. There is much more left to the game. You don't know what your opponent holds in his hand. You're not playing only against the system, for which the percentage is known, you're also playing against your opponent. You have to play not only the odds of your hand and what you might draw, but also the style of your opponent, a never-ending continuous assessment that continues to challenge right up until the cards are revealed. He might bluff. He might fold. He might call or raise. You only have clues as to the value in his hand, and therefore how to evaluate your own. The power of the cards plays only one part of the game.

Compare this to Monopoly. When the fourth phase is reached, players simply roll and roll and roll until one of them wins. There is nothing left to play; all information is open, there are no more properties or houses to buy, no more resource management, no hidden values to assess. As long as the percentages are close, any property on which you have three houses or more is going to kill or nearly kill you if you land on it. Additional damage is not that relevant. If you have only $50, you are just as dead landing on a property that costs $600 as one that costs $900 or $75.

In Monopoly, the percentages for win/loss in phase four are going to be a few points: 12% vs 16% or something like that. First one to roll badly loses.

Gamewise, there is no real favorite, no unexpected winner or loser, no underdog. On any particular roll, however, the odds will vary wildly. You might be entering at a long stretch of properties owned by an opponent. On this particular roll, your odds of surviving might be 60 to 12.5, in which case survival is a win for the underdog. This is the thrill of gambling; however it is the "low" sort of gambling that allows no choices, not even on whom or how much to bet. The game state is set, you're 100% in and you simply await the outcome. You can't fold and save your money for the next game, or bluff your opponent into not charging rent. You can't bet on another player.

That's why Monopoly ultimately fails as an interesting game, when compared to other luck heavy games such as poker.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Who Knows and Who's Guessing?

Suppose we take 128 people from all over the world and we give them a quiz with 7 true-false questions.

If all 128 people answer all 7 questions correctly, we would find it hard to imagine that all, or even most, of them guessed their way to the correct answers. It would be more likely that all of them found little difficulty in answering the questions correctly.

Similarly, if all 128 people answer all 7 questions incorrectly, we must suppose that none of them knew any of the answers.

Things get trickier if the answers come out in a bell curve, that is: 2 people answered either all 7 questions correctly or none correctly, 14 answered either 6 or 1 questions correctly, 42 answered 5 or 2 correctly, and 70 answered either 4 or 3 correctly. We could draw 1 of 2 conclusions from this: either the sample of people we chose represents a perfect sampling of knowledge vs ignorance, such that they were equally likely as not to know the answers, or that all of them chose answers at random and the result was a matter of pure luck.

There are some odd things to note about this. The first is how the results of some participants affect the evaluation of how well other, seemingly unrelated participants performed. If you got 6 answers correct under the bell curve scenario, it is impossible to know whether you know anything. You might have guessed on all of them. However, if it turns out that that guy from Nepal, who we originally thought answered only 1 question correctly actually answered all 7 correctly, the likelihood that you answered correctly based on actual knowledge rather than by random guessing goes up.

Then there is the problem of just which questions were the ones that were not answered correctly. Take question 1. If everyone got it right, the odds are that you knew the answer. If half got it right and half got it wrong, the odds are that you and everyone guessed. If you actually knew the answer, the distribution would, mathematically, have been slightly skewed more toward people getting the answer correct (by half an answer). The more people who answer the question correctly, the more likely it is that those people who got it correctly didn't do so by accident. However, if you're the only one who got it wrong, we have no idea if you didn't know the answer or if you guessed.

One of the most important things to note is that a bell distribution or its equivalent implies that some people will answer the answers correctly by accident. This is why there is no proof that a financial adviser, economist, and so on, who guesses right several times in a row about the economy or what have you has any idea about what they're doing ... if the other people who guessed had some right and some wrong. Or that a study or series of studies showing the benefit or ill-effect of something means anything, if you don't know out of how many unreported tests the results were taken (see here).

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Shabbat Gaming

Eitan, Emily, and Nadine came to Raanana for shabbat. We played at Abraham and Sarah's on Friday night. For Sat lunch and games, Elli and Susan joined us at my house.

Friday night Abraham, Eitan, Emily, Nadine, and I ran though a few rounds of Caylus Magna Carta, the card game version of the board game Caylus. First play for everyone. Nadine and I teamed up, and we only played through three rounds so as to get the idea.

Caylus the board game is a worker placement game with complicated moving parts. Five different colors of cubes, five different colors of buildings, dozens of building types, tons of little interactions. There is a series of favor tracks, castle tracks, turn order and passing order tracks, and so on. You have to get these cubes to get that building to play on this building to get these cubes (and money) to get that building to get one of these buildings. Each building needs more cash and or cubes.

I find Caylus to be too long and finicky for what it is, which is a decent worker placement game. And I'm not thrilled about the provost mechanic, over which you sometimes have little control. But it's ok as a two or three player game. More than that and I'll bring a book to the table and read while waiting for everyone else to think through their turns: I'll probably lose, but there's a limit to how much time I'm willing to invest in figuring out the right move. Too often a designer mistakes "complicated" for "strategic".

Caylus Magna Carta appears to clear up some of the problems with the original board game. It dispenses with the bailiff (the other white guy), the favors, the having to play in the castle, the other half a dozen irrelevant buildings like turn order, and so on. Instead it introduces a random card draw - annoying, but it's not clear that some cards are necessarily better than other cards, so no complaint.

CMC appears to be shorter and play quicker, while preserving the basic worker placement, cube collection, and building upgrade mechanisms. We had finished the first phase of the castle by turn three.

I had a green building in play, but was well away from getting a blue one. I'm wondering how likely I would have been able to get out one or two blue buildings by the time the players concentrating on building the castle would have been able to end the game. I suspect not very likely, which makes me question the viability of pursuing blue buildings altogether. On the other hand, I have to trust that the game isn't THAT badly imbalanced. So we'll see.

First player has a huge advantage, being the only one with easy access to stone on the first round. In Caylus, the first player advantage is taken care of by giving successively more money to the other players in turn order. It seems patently obvious that this should be the rule in this game, as well. Abraham went first and, as a result of turn order, he was killing us by the end of the first, second, and third rounds. Maybe I misread something in the rules.

Still, I'm willing to give it a full try, especially as the turn order problem is easily solvable. The game still has the provost, a mechanic that kind of works but I don't really like.

After lunch, Ellis, Susan, Eitan, and Emily played Taj Mahal. I quickly taught them the game, although some of them had played once before. I didn't catch the final scores. Everyone seemed to get the hang of it.

Abraham went out for a short time, so Nadine, Sarah, and I played Through the Desert while waiting for him to return. TtD is a camel placement game where you extend your five camel trains (only two placements each turn) to touch oases and cordon off areas of the board before other people can block you. It has several different avenues for scoring points.

Nadine had played only once before, a long while ago. Sarah gave her a series of rules reminders in no particular order. I could have reminded Nadine about certain scoring opportunities to remember during play, but I didn't, so I squeaked out a victory over the two of them (71, 69, 66).

Abraham returned and the four of us played Tobago. First play for Abraham and Sarah. It's been a while since either Nadine or I played. We removed the curses before starting. This decrease one of the unfair luck elements, though it also allows for very long treasure maps to grow.

Tobago has a nifty card play mechanic: you are hunting for four treasures on an island . Each card indicates a condition about a treasure, and you can play the card onto any of the four treasure hint piles. Each card placed om a treasure hint pile has to narrow the possible locations on the board at which that treasure might be located. So one card might say "Not on in the biggest mountain range" and the next might say "within two spaces of a hut"; both of these cards played to the same treasure hint pile mean that that treasure must be located somewhere on the board at a location that satisfies both of these conditions. Players continue playing cards until only a single possible locations remains, at which point whomever wants to can (instead of playing a card) pick up the treasure. The loot is then divided among the person who picked it up and all players who have played cards to that treasure, one share per card played. After treasures are located, amulets that give free turns or other benefits appear on the island at known but changing locations.

Nadine was sure that concentrating on getting amulets was the key to victory, so she went straight to a point on the board where an amulet was going to appear. After the first treasure scoring, she was no longer sure about this, since it took time to get the amulets in return for which she scored less points. I don't know. I think giving up a turn now for utility later can be worthwhile, but it depends on the circumstances.

Nadine's was the only amulet collected after the first treasure, so there were five amulets on the board after the second one. I picked up one, then used it to pick up the second, and so on all the way across the board, taking five amulets and using four of them. I wouldn't call the amulet mechanic broken, but I don't really like things that can be collected without limit, used without limit, and give you entire turns for free. It disrupts too much of the game.

I'm also not happy with the "last player who collects a treasure starts the next one" rule, since the last person to collect a treasure is often the one who scored most, rather than least, and so doesn't deserve this arbitrary advantage. I think this rule was meant to benefit the loser; I could be wrong. It doesn't, in any case.

What I love about the game is the card play mechanic; even though the game is fairly dull otherwise, the card play is great. It would make a great solo puzzle game of some kind.

Update: I forgot that Emily and Eitan played a few games of Saikoro. Too bad the company that made the game went out of business. Still a cute game.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Games Played

My nephews always want me to play with them (or tell my made-up-on-the-spot Snowflake stories). We started off with me teaching two of them how to play several games from the Book of Classic Board Games:

  • Go: This book contains the 9x9 version, which was a bit above their heads.
  • Solitaire: I think they understood the game, though they have a long way to go to get good at it.
  • Fox and Geese: They had played this once or twice. They thought that the geese could jump the foxes, which I believe to be incorrect. On the other hand, I remembered that the foxes were not forced to jump, which they thought to be incorrect (and they were right).
  • Halma: Called Hoppers in this book, this game is Chinese Checkers on a square board from corner to corner.

Later I saw one of the other nephews playing Magic with my brother. I then played against my brother. We both created decks from random picks of his cards. I lost three games in a row, even the final game where he drew only two lands for the first half of the game. I believe I was a decent player once upon a time; this belief comforts me in many times of trouble and hopelessness. Unfortunately, none of those times are whilst playing Magic.

I brought three games to play in the afternoon, figuring we would get to play one of them. Oddly, the one that attracted them was Detroit-Cleveland Grand Prix (over Age of Empires III and Steam). We played a full six player game, which was a first for me. We played with a number of rules adjustments, some better and some worse.

Players could acquire multiple cars. This made bidding to be very very vicious, which was all to the good. On the other hand, those players who acquired no cars were still required to play cards, which was boring, king-making, and rather silly.

We also played that the white movement on your cards could be used for your own car, or for another car even if that car could not move. I'm not sure whether this change was ultimately bad or good; it meant that players who acquired multiple white movement cards had an advantage, so it was probably for the bad.

The game was pretty close, and the kids loved it so much that they asked to borrow the game to play again.

On Sukkot I brought my standby card filler No Thanks  to the family at which I ate lunch. I played this with the host and his teenage daughters, and they asked to play multiple times. A definite hit.

Thursday is Games Day at the Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Club, which I am planning on attending.