Last week was an interesting animal as far as gaming went. I spent far more time writing than playing games, and in fact ,it looked as though I would not play any until we received the call from our dear friends the Bakers on Saturday. Adam and Courtney have recently moved back from Portland to Indianapolis and we have been eagerly awaiting our first chance to hangout with them.
As a side note, Adam Baker is the person responsible for convincing me to give blogging a try. Following in the footsteps of his massively successful blog “Man Vs Debt”, I am glad to report that I am basking in the warm glow of my modest achievement! So if you have been wondering who is to blame for my tedious ramblings polluting cyberspace, he would be the one for whom you are looking.
After arranging the logistics, we made plans for a full day of games at their new place on Sunday! Good friends and gaming, what could be better?
Following a little friendly chit-chat and catching up, we got down to business. The first game on the menu was Got’ Em.
We taught the Bakers how to play the “bright” version of Got’ Em in about 5 minutes and we were off. This was mine and Heather’s first four player game of Got’ Em, so some of our advantage from our prior plays was diminished. Both Heather and Adam’s first plays were immediately adjacent to my pawn and I could tell right away what kind of game this was going to be. While I fled for my life and tried to box in Adam, Courtney remained still and threw out walls pretty equally towards all players. Heather kept placing walls near me and kamikaze charging into the same area as I was in. This course of action did not make much sense, so I knew she had to have a walk through walls card because even she is not that crazy! A bit of luck found Adam ending his turn next to one of the outer walls. Courtney placed a wall next to him and so did I. This left Heather an opportunity to close the deal, and she did! Following the requisite grumbling by Adam, the game continued. I walked through a wall and joined Courtney in her more open area and we tried to corner Heather, while still maneuvering against each other. Courtney was forced to flee desperately, but there was no escaping from Heather’s wall dropping fury and she was eliminated! So…once again, it came down Heather and I. This was clearly going to be another round in our eternal struggle for supremacy, that some call marriage! I felt pretty confident as I had one walk through wall card, more territory, and cards that matched the closest board spaces to her current position. After thwarting her first attempt to trap me by wall walking, I closed the noose needing to only play my next turn for the finish. What? She wall walked! No worries, as I only needed two moves to trap her in the new location and she was three from having me! I was one move from closing her in and she wall walked again!!! I barely had time to think, uh oh, before she placed the final wall trapping me and securing her victory. This round to you my little nemesis!
Next up was Navegador, by Mac Gerdts, where players engage in exploration, commerce, ship building, and colonization as they vie for the favor of various Portuguese nobles. Something a little more meaty than Got’ Em, and we had all played it before and enjoyed the game. After a somewhat longer refresher course than we thought we would need, the game got going. This game has always given me fits! I love Imperial 2030, which is by the same designer and shares the same rondel action selection mechanic, but for some reason I have always struggled to play well at Navegador. As such, I managed to screw up my game on my very first turn. Why wait, right? I increased my number of workers to five when I should have only gone to four. This financially hamstrung me for the entire early game and left me incredibly vulnerable to people grabbing cheap colonies ahead of me. This is exactly what Courtney did, and it further crippled me well into the mid game. Meanwhile, Adam was pursuing a cathedral and factory strategy with little to no interference. Heather was merrily exploring and colonizing much like Courtney while I struggled to get going.
As the mid game progressed, I finally started rolling, but it seemed unlikely that I would be able to catch up with Adam, or Courtney for that matter. Unlike Got’ Em, at which Heather seems to be the undisputed queen, she was struggling almost as much as I was. Her’s was less self-inflicted than mine, but more a result of lacking direction and competing with other players for common goals. Adam, was suffering from none of the above. We all kept dumping raw goods on the market and he kept making a fortune refining them. This, in turn allowed him to build more cathedrals and workers which allowed for more money and factories. Combo? Um yeah.
It was Courtney who brought the game to and end by pushing her fleet into Nagasaki. Everyone, especially Adam, was pretty confident that he had put on a dominant performance. As the points were added up, I managed to best Heather, but only finished third. It came down to Adam posting a massive score, but much to everyone’s surprise Courtney finished a mere three points behind him! We were all glad to see that even though Adam was virtually unopposed, another strategy was viable and succeeded in making it a very close game!
On the heels of Adam’s victory at Navegador, he offered to teach Heather, the kids, and I a new game, Rampage. My oh my, what a game it is! Rampage is an absolute blast and an example of genius game design! Each player controls a monster (heavy plastic dinosaur) and they destroy a town full of buildings, eat little meeples, attack each other, and as the name suggest rampage all over the place!
On a player’s turn he may take two actions:
Flip his monster’s foot disk through the city for movement.
Pick up a car in his current zone and flick it off the top of his monster either at another monster, buildings, or both!
Place his chin on his monster and blow like Godzilla breathe as an attack on buildings, other monsters, or both!
If his monster’s feet are currently touching the sidewalk around a building he may pick it up and drop his monster on the building! Any floors that are left without meeples are devoured by the monster and placed in his stomach. (Behind his monster player screen)
At the end of the player’s turn, he may eat a number of meeples on the ground in his zone equal to the number of teeth his monster has remaining. Individually, the meeples are not worth any points, but for every set of all six colors of meeples a player has eaten by the end of the game he scores points. At the end of the game, when the town has been completely destroyed, the player with the most points from eating building floors, sets of meeples, and other monsters teeth wins!
I started things off by flicking my foot token into a building and right off the board costing me a monster tooth on the very first turn! Hmm…I thought to myself, “This game doesn’t look like Navegador.” Despite my rough start, I got rolling early and was a meeple gobbling machine! I destroyed the building closest to me, ate floors, chomped meeples, and rampaged with glee! Although Katie struggled to knock down buildings, she was a car flicking beast! On one flick, she launched a car half way across the board and managed to knock over both Jarrett and I! Needless to say, she was exceedingly pleased with herself. Heather, was racking up meeple sets like they were going out of style and eating floors of buildings at a similar pace. I knew it was going to be close between she and I. I tried as hard as I could to complete a fourth set of meeples, but when that became impossible, I used my breath and car tossing to rack up teeth from the other players. When it cam time to score, Heather and I had the same number of meeple sets, she had eaten more floors, but I had a huge advantage in the number of monster teeth I had knocked off of other players and this made the difference! This round to me little nemesis!
All in all, everyone had a great time playing Rampage! Sure it is a goofy game, but if you can’t enjoy playing this one you are truly dead inside. Besides, the mechanics are actually well designed. Yes, you have to be able to master the dexterity element to implement your plans, but there is most definitely strategy involved. Great game, great fun, and one that I look forward to playing again!
Last up for the day, was Castle Panic, by Justin De Witt. It is a co-op, where the players try to defend a castle as monsters attack from all sides! Adam was running/teaching the game as Katie, Jarrett, Courtney, the Baker’s young daughter Milli, Heather, and I were on Castle defense. I am not normally a fan of co-op games, as I tend to find greater enjoyment in the competitive aspects of gaming, but I must admit Castle Panic was fun to play. If I had played this game as a kid I would have thought it was the greatest thing ever, and even now I had fun.
We got off to a terrible start as boulders crashed through our castle while leaving the monsters unscathed, thanks to Heather’s unfortunate die rolling. The hordes repeatedly closed in and even breached the walls on more than one occasion, but in the end our careful planning and tight knit teamwork won the day! Evil was defeated and fun had by all. It is hard to argue with that outcome under any circumstances!
A special mention goes out to young Milli, who at just six years old did a fine job helping and was a valuable part of the team. Clearly her gaming pedigree is showing even at her young age.
Even though I was only able to get in one day of gaming last week, it was a great day spent with dear friends that we have sorely missed! It, is wonderful to have the Baker’s back in town and I am sure that Sunday was just the beginning of many good times in the coming year. See you next week!