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Dec 10

Family Gaming Over the Weekend

It has been a little while since Heather, Katie, Jarrett, and I have played some games together, but we broke out of that rut this past weekend.  Friday night the four of us played two games together.  First up was a unique set collection/bidding/psychological chicken game known as Lascaux.

In Lascaux, players attempt to acquire the most copies of different animal cards for the purpose of gaining points at the end of the game.  There are 6 different animal types and 9 copies of each animal.  At the start of each round animal cards are displayed, either until there are seven total in the middle or if all six colors (Each card has two) are represented by fewer than 7 cards.  Players then pick one of their colored markers that matches a color on the animals they hope to win.  The bidding now begins, in clockwise order players take turns either placing another one of their bidding stones in the middle or passing and removing all of the other stones and adding them to their stockpile.  If they pass, and take the stones, that player must now take his face down maker and place it right next to the cards.  The next player to pass places his marker on top of that player’s marker and so on until all players have passed.  Starting at the top of the stack, each player reveals his token and claims all animals sharing that color.  If a player lower in the stack reveals a marker for which all of the animals have already been claimed he receives nothing.  Players then retrieve their markers, refill the animals on the board, and repeat the process until the deck is exhausted.  At the end of the game players score one point for each copy an animals of which they possess the most, and if another player has more copies of that animal they receive no points.  In the event of a tie, all players involved in the tie receive the same number of points.  All players then gain one point for every six stones they have at the end of the game.  The player with the most points wins.

Lascaux provides a tense experience where players try to guess how they can acquire the animals they desire for the lowest price possible.  Trying to anticipate what animals other players desire and being able to out guess them as to acquire your animals on the cheap while forcing your opponents to over pay is a large part of the fun created by Lascaux.  Whether through high stakes bids to get exactly what you want, or sneaking out a couple of animals from the bottom of the stack while pulling off a huge stone grab Lascaux generates more than its share of cheers and groans, but most of all, a lot of smiles!

Ratings For Lascaux

Hammy 7.0

Heather 7.0

Jarrett 7.0

Katie 7.0

As you can see, the entire family rated the game a 7.0 out of a possible 10.  Lascaux is a fun and light game that entertains the whole family while offering enough of a challenge to be fun for more serious gamers.

Next up was Alan R. Moon’s modern classic, Ticket to Ride.  In Ticket to Ride, players are completing train routes all across America by collecting sets of like colored cards and using them to place their train markers on the board.  Players also have ticket cards that show destinations that they must reach in an unbroken string of routes, no matter how convoluted, to gain the amount of points shown on the card.  Failure to accomplish this task results in losing those points instead.  Players are motivated to construct longer routes as they are worth more points, however it is much more difficult to acquire the needed 5 or 6 cards to finish some of the longer runs and player may be forced to take less efficient, but more easily completed options.  At the end of the game, the player who has completed the longest unbroken string of trains receives a bonus of ten points which I have seen decide the game on more than one occasion.  Players compete over high scoring routes, much-needed cards, and limited routes into crucial crossroads cities in what turns into fun-filled trek across America!

Although my taste in games tends to run much heavier than Ticket to Ride, I still enjoy a good game of it from time to time, and must admit that it is a near flawless design.  Every rule is easy to understand and does exactly as intended with absolutely no fluff included.  Yes there is randomness, but it is built into the design and accepted instead of simply being tolerated as a necessary evil.  I highly recommend Ticket to Ride to all families who enjoy some quality time spent gaming together.

Ratings For Ticket to Ride

Hammy 7.5

Heather 7.5

Katie 6.0

Jarrett 8.0

As you can clearly see, Ticket to Ride is quite popular with the entire family. Only Katie show any reservations about with a rating of 6.0.  Jarrett, on the other hand, is a big fan of Ticket to Ride, and rates it an impressive 8.0 out of 10!

On Saturday, my wife and I decided to play something a little more serious and the kids sat this one out.  On the menu for the afternoon was Martin Wallace’s London.  We picked London up at this year’s GenCon after playing once, but had not had the opportunity to get it to the table at home as of yet.  After a brief refresher of the rules, we were off!

In London, players are responsible for rebuilding the city just after the Great Fire in 1666.  The game take place from the time of the Great Fire up to 1900 and players will construct buildings, technological advances, monuments, and businesses of the era.  Throughout the game players purchase various boroughs of London, cope with rising poverty, and try to maintain their finances through a combination of loans and careful money management.  Players each build their own “city” which represents the areas of London for which they are responsible, and activate these cities to generate money and victory points while attempting to stave off poverty.  The player who is most efficient in his actions and able to manage his scarce resources most effectively will be the one who wins.

Heather and I went wildly different routes in the game.  She built a very tidy, well run city that almost entirely avoided generating any poverty from the start of the game.  She purchased the more expensive boroughs north of the River Thames and by the end of the game had numerous Undergrounds that made her parts of London the marvel of the world!  I on the other hand ran what could best be described as sweatshop in the slums on the south side of the river while exploiting the poor without a concern for their wretched conditions for most of the game.  Money was my only concern, and I made tons of it!  Only towards the end of the game did I begin to try and reduce the impact of the massive amount of poverty I had generated, and slowly but surely began to bring things under control.  The only real question was whether I had made enough in personal wealth to offset the negatives of poverty that I still had at the end of the game.  As it turned out I was able to parlay my sweatshop filled slum into a victory, and defeated Heather by a score of 138 to 125.  A fairly close score when all things are considered, but most importantly it was a  fun afternoon playing a game with the wife downstairs by the fireplace on a cold winter day.

Ratings For London

Hammy 8.0

Heather 7.0

In closing, I would to express what a great weekend we had playing games together as a family.  While the games were obviously not free when we bought them, we spent zero money and approximately six hours of fun and family interaction.  A bargain by any standard these days.  Everyone had a good time together and used their brains while doing so, as opposed to setting in front of the television all day.  I do not always report on family game time, but I felt that this weekend was such a positive experience I should share it in hopes of inspiring similar days for others.  It was truly a fine example of the power that great games possess to bring people together!

P.S.  If you have had any similar experiences I would love to hear about them in the comments.  Don’t be afraid to start the conversation!

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