Saturday, April 09, 2005

Chutes and Ladders

Most Friday night dinners or Saturday lunches we either invite in or are invited out. This Friday night we went to friends.

Despite my years of trying to spread the message, about 99% of my friends and neighbors haven't caught on to the joys of Better Gaming. A large part is the lack of any good games in Israel. Of course, the problem is catch-22, since the market drives the import, and the availability drives the market.

Anyhoo, Friday night we enter to find the mother playing Chutes and Ladders with her 5 year old. As we are still waiting for the father to come home from a different synagogue, we sit down while she tries to have a conversation with my wife and simultaneously spin the spinner and move her piece.

I can't help it.

I blurt out, "You know, this game would be a trifle more interesting if you each play two pieces, so that each time you spin, you have to choose which piece to move. Game over when your second piece hits 100. That way, you actually have a some decisions to make."

I was very pleased with her reaction. Her jaw dropped for about 3 seconds, and then she said, "That's a fantastic idea." Over the protestations of the 5 year old, she restarted the game giving herself and her daughter two pieces each. Unfortunately, she still wasn't able to both play and talk to my wife, so I let her off the hook and sat down to play until the father returned.

There are actually several levels of decision making involved. The first level is simply to realize that by moving two pieces, you can pretty much avoid all the chutes, and increase your chances to hit the ladders. A more subtle level is when you realize that it better if both of your pieces are different numbers away from something you want to avoid or reach. Lastly, that your choices are only available so long as both of your pieces are still on the board.

This game didn't teach my opponent much of anything, I fear. She moved only a single piece, and managed to avoid every single chute, reaching 100 while my first two pieces were still on something like 8 and 11.

Her next piece was not so lucky, as she hit a series of chutes on the first three levels, while mine climbed and climbed until one of my pieces was in the eighties and the other reached a hundred. Naturally, I hadn't hit any chutes, but my opponent was convinced that she was simply unlucky.

Unfortunately, once one of your pieces reaches the end, the game goes back to being the dull repetitive boring game it always is. She began to climb numbers while I cycled through chutes. Eventually, I won the game, but not before my brain exploded. Luckily the father came home about then.

On a positive note, the mother promised to try out the variant next time they play, and was impressed that I could come up with it. One more client should I ever decide to go into business teaching games to families.


Sat evening was my regular PR game with Rachel, who toasted me by about 8 points. This was partly my own fault, although Rachel is quite a savvy PR player. I purposely tried to play a slightly revamped version of one of my buildings:

Strip Mine 1/1: You may turn over one unmanned plantation to pay 1 less for a building. Turned over plantations occupy island space and are useless (but count for Residence).

This is revised from the original which let you turn over as many as you wanted each round. We found that one too strong, since the player could frequently buy a nice building on round 2 or 3 already, without much of a penalty.

Naturally I bought Hacienda to go with it, and I wasn't producing much less than Rachel was, but she managed to get Coffee going before I could get Tobacco, and she was doing quite well. All in all, I would try it again, possibly adding that the player can also sacrifice the Strip Mine itself for an additional one-time reduction (losing the VP from the building).


1 comment:

Coldfoot said...

How about 2 pawns each and a spinner with only 2 numbers on it, 99 and 100?