Sunday, December 16, 2012

Long Distance Antike with Chris and Jim

Last night I played Antike with two friends on a different continent. We didn't play an online board game; we played by video chat with four video cameras and three copies of the game, one at each location.

Chris lives in Oregon. Jim lives in Indiana. I live in Raanana, Israel. This was not our first long distance game. Four years ago, we arranged for Chris and Jim to set up a game at BGG.con so that I could play "at the con" when I wasn't able to make it. This year the internet reception at BGG.con was spotty, and scheduling was difficult, so we delayed the game a few weeks. On that occasion, we played Agricola.

Face to face is best, of course, since you get to see your friends, pass around a beer, and need control only a single board state. Online gaming generally has only text chat, which removes most of the social element from the game. Also, in online games, you are subject to the occasional implementation issue, such as an interface error. Playing by video chat neatly fits into the space between these two options. We could see the other person in a limited way when we looked at the screen, although we generally looked at our own board. We could talk in real time, and even wave at the other players' families in the background when they came in to gawk at us geeks. The copied board states ensured that no errors were made during play.

The game took two and a half hours, including setting up the communications and the boards, resetting the communications to remove some static and mic problems, and a bathroom break. We used Google+ Hangout (although we toyed with using Skype). Chris used two cameras, one for himself and one for the main board.

Pics that Jim's and Chris's wives took are on my Facebook profile.

We played on the Middle Eastern map. I played Arabia (southeast), Jim played Persia (central north), and Chris played Greece (central west). Chris and I had similar strategies of early Know-Hows; Chris beat me to the first one and stayed about a turn and a half in front of me until near the end of the game. We each took one south side of the board. Jim played a heavy expansion strategy, quickly expanding to 15 and then 20 cities across the north, and then he armed himself and created a military front to protect his territories, which bulged in an arc across the entire north of the board and down into the center. However, having missed all of the early Know-How points, he lagged behind in points for most of the game.

I get the feeling that both of them are used to more conflict in the game. In our game, not a single city was conquered. In fact, the only fight that occurred was when I swapped some ships with Jim so that I could place a ship near his city, not to conquer it but to get the second "7 ships" award. Near the end, Chris expanded to get the last "5 city" award, which brought him to withing a point of victory, but I collected the "All eight Know-Hows" (worth a free point) and then got my 14th sea location on my next turn. The game ended 10 to 9 to 6 (or 7).

As usual, this was a great time spent with two amazing people whom I rarely see or interact with face to face. The conversation was game oriented mostly, but the game was really an excuse to get together. Hooray for games, and for video chat, and for good companions.

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