Saarya is in sleepaway yeshiva, and only comes home once every three weeks. It wasn't too bad around the holidays and all that, when he came home often enough. Now that we are at a normal schedule, it is really a long time. It is like early empty nest syndrome. He's not old enough, yet!
And it's ridiculous, seeing as I live only twenty minutes away from his dorm. Last week I repeated an offer that I made to him earlier in the year to come visit him on Tuesday evenings, if he could spare time away from his studies. I finally got a chance to try it, last night.
In the very scant free time that they have, Saarya had taught his friends Settlers of Catan and The Menorah Game. We made some time tonight and I brought along two games: Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation and Tigris & Euphrates. I wasn't sure if we would be two player or more.
He asked me to pick up some pizzas on the way, and we ended up being four players with a number of spectators.
T&E is a game that Israelis seem to like a lot, even when they have little gaming experience. I introduced the game to the two boys sitting down with us, one to my left and one across the table. After every sentence, Saarya translated into Hebrew since my Hebrew is still poor and one of the boy's (to my left) English was poor.
I usually explain T&E with a very brief thematic description, after which I simply refer to everything by their colors. I note that we all have four color leaders (and their names), that there are four color tiles (and their types), and four color points. Then I say that the object is to gain points in all colors, and that our score is the color of which we have the least.
Next I say that on your turn, you have two actions of four types: place/move leader (gains no points, but leaders establish kingdoms), place tile (points to leader or king if in a kingdom, blue on rivers, others elsewhere), place disaster (usually to break kingdoms), toss and draw tiles.
After that I say that there are only four more things to know:
1. Internal conflict by placing a leader; only placing a leader can cause an internal conflict. IC's are always in red. Count red tiles around the leader, attacker adds, defended adds. Ties to the defender. Loser leaves, winner gains a red point. Repeat: IC's are always fought in red, with red tiles surrounding leaders.
2. External conflicts by placing a tile joining kingdoms; only placing a tile can cause an external conflict. Tile placed to join two kingdoms (not groups of tiles, only kingdoms) scores no points. There may be up to 4 EC's and you choose how to fight them. [I lay this out as I demonstrate]. Let's choose green first. Add all green tiles in entire kingdom, not just next to leader. Attacker tosses, defender tosses. Loser removes leader and all colored tiles in entire kingdom, winner gains point in color for all items removed. Onto the next conflict ... look there in no longer a connection and therefore there is no longer a conflict, see? So order of resolution is important. [I leave out some details, such as red external conflicts, can't join three kingdoms, and that leaders can't be placed to join kingdoms]
3. Green leader in a kingdom that has two treasures takes one. That's the only way to get treasures. You don't act to take treasures, you simply have to be there if it happens. Treasure is a wild point.
4. If you form a square, you can make a monument. At the end of your turn, whenever your leader is in a kingdom with a monument that share's its color, you get a point in that color. [I leave out that you lose the support of the tiles for external monuments, and that leaders may be removed from the board when a monument is made, and other exceptions like that.]
I then review: you gain points by placing tiles into kingdoms where you have the leader or the king, or by fighting an IC for a single red point, or by fighting an EC for a number of points in the color fought, or by taking a treasure with a green leader, or by being in a kingdom with a monument.
Game ends when only two treasures remain or we are out of tiles. And don't forget to use your disaster tiles, but you only have two!
That usually gets everyone started. During the first few turns I will explain some strategies as we go: Red tiles supporting leaders. Tiles the color of your leaders supporting your leaders. Black and Green leader special abilities. Kingdoms are not "owned" by any player. How a treasure is acquired. How a thin kingdom is vulnerable to disasters. Remember to get points in all colors. Don't shy away from conflicts you can win because you always draw back up to six tiles. And so on.
My LHO started first, and it seemed like we were all doing ok, but gradually my opposite opponent seemed to get more and more confused. Eventually you could see that his brain had hit swapping limit. With a rueful grin he asked if one of the spectators could take over. And that was the one who understood my English. My LHO who hadn't actually got the game and did quite well.
Treasures were taken fast and furious, and kingdoms stretched long distances without any disasters. In a very unusual situation, a player had a choice between the treasure in the lower left corner and the upper right corner. I felt I was doing pretty well, with a score of six, when Saarya decided to end the game by taking the last treasures. Doing so gave me three black cubes, however, which pushed me to seven. Saarya had four, my LHO had five, and my opposite opponent had three (which included two treasures).
I packed up and wished him well, leaving him LotR:tC. Perhaps he will have a chance to play a quick 2-player some evening. Happily, this is one of his shabbats with me.