Saturday, October 24, 2009

Weekend Gaming

Friday night

It's Alive

Two of my 18 year old guests stayed to play after dinner. One had previous experience with The Settlers of Catan, while the other had no real game experience.

I brought out It's Alive and set it up without letting them see the box cover (and thus the designer's name). We played the basic game, which I won. I asked them how they liked it, and they both liked it and wanted to play again. Sweet.

As we were setting up to play the advanced game, I let them know who the designer was. I won the advanced game 58 to 48 to 43.


They liked the theme and the game. Thankfully, I didn't win this one, too. The score was 13 to 7 (me) to 5.


The Talpiot neighborhood gaming scene is growing. I hosted a lunch of some of the local gaming fellowship: Bill and Shirley, Abraham and Sarah, Eitan and Emily, Nadine, and Adam. With company like this, I expect game night will continue even while I'm away in November.

El Grande

Eitan, Emily, and Sarah had not played El Grande, and Abraham had played only once. I told them that it was a required staple game. Nadine has a history of kicking butt in the game, and I told the other players that they could consider their score a "win" if they score at least 2/3 of Nadine's score.

Three hours later shabbat was over and they had finished round 6, whereupon they all quit. Nadine had something like 72 points, and her closest competitor was Emily at 47. So no.

Modern Art

Adam loves this game and wants to play it whenever he's over. We hemmed and hawed about it, but eventually I said let's do it, since I hadn't played it in a while, anyway.

The rest of us aren't fans of Modern Art. There are several problems with the game. The auction prices are too high for "once around" auctions. For a pair of paintings worth 100, anything player A bids, other than 99, is going to be outbid by player B and player C. The "name the price" auctions always favor the player to the left of the person setting the price, which, if your left-hand opponent tends to play, sucks for you. The double auction cards are always game breakers if one person gets too many of them; we fix this by dealing them out evenly to all players.

Other things that look like problems may not be. It appears that you should never win your own auctions (below half the value of the item); however, letting the person who is winning gain 49 to your gain of 51 may not be worth it. It might be better to gain only 35 and have your opponent gain nothing. Also, it's always best to be the one winning the auctions, so long as you gain 1 (obviously you want more, if possible). But the evaluation of prices adds a bit of complexity into the auctions, so you can't always know exactly where that gain of 1 is. And turn order matters a great deal; what's worth one thing to your LHO is worth something entirely different to your RHO, since your LHO is about to play the next painting, so gets to affect the valuations more directly.

So it's a tad more interesting than it seems. But I still don't like the auction price variance for once around auctions, and I don't like "name your price" auctions.

Adam won, but not by much. He had 567, Shirley 552, me 537, and Bill 480-something.

Pillars of the Earth

I taught this to both Bill and Shirley.

This game doesn't have a tremendous amount of luck, but the luck sometimes goes screwy and kills me. This time it didn't, thankfully, and I simply lost due to my own shortfall and Shirley's good play.

The game hinged on the last round. None of us had any money, so none of us could utilize the pay for VP cards. However, the craftsman who converted metal and wood to 6 was available on the board to a master builder. None of us had any metal. There were two locations to get metal: the usual taxes location, and one of the personalities. And places to get wood included the location that takes a cube from the market, and the personality who gives a stone and a wood. (I don't think anyone had a Woodworker, so none of us could buy the wood.)

When my master builder came up first, I paid my last 7 to take the taxes location in order to secure one of the metals. Really dumb; I should have secured the craftsman itself. Of course, if I did, both of the metals might have been taken by the other players, but at least none of them would have gotten the craftsman. Shirley took the craftsman and then both personalities without much difficulty. I sold the metal at the market and could buy 1 other good, but was one coin shy of buying an additional good.

Shirley won by one point, 54 to 53. Bill had around 45.


agent easy said...

3 hours to get to round 6 of El Grande?!!! What on earth could cause that? We typically finish a full game in 1.5 hours.

Regarding Modern Art... it's not a favorite of mine, but I can't say I quite understand some of your analysis. No one sets the price for once around auctions except the players themselves, so if they are "too high" then I suspect groupthink. Second, why would anyone pay 99 of 100 dollars for a set of paintings? The paying player makes 1$ and the seller makes 99$. No one would go that high in our group.

Yehuda said...

El Grande: Yeah, we had a six hour game on one game day. Yeesh.

Modern Art. Here's why: Pick a number N, let's say 67. Player A bids 67 for player D's paintings worth 100. Currently, player A is making 33, and player D is making 67.

What should player B do? There is no reason in the world for him NOT to say at least 68. Now he is making 32, player A is now not making 33 (a 65 point swing) and player D is only making 1 more than he was a second ago.

What should player C do? Same reasoning.

This reasoning continues all the way until the price point of 99*. And, unlike game theory, there is no group think involved here. It is simply the right thing to do. player C must win every auction, unless player A bids 1 less than the price of the painting.

Similarly, for "name that price" paintings, player A will win every auction, unless he thinks player D has incorrectly valued the painting. And Player A sometimes has some control over the price of the painting, since he plays next, so it's a little more interesting than all that. Sometimes.

For open ended auctions, the same logic would apply, but now the bidders are conspiring together to both outbid the other players, and also keep player D from gaining too much. That's classic game theory, and so somewhat interesting.

Blind bidding is the most interesting auction here, oddly enough. Pure game theory.