Monday, June 19, 2017

Game On

When I grew up I played a lot of cards and a lot of board games—Monopoly, Careers, Clue, Risk, Parcheesi, Life, Scrabble—that kind of thing. Games were an enjoyable way to learn math, strategic thinking, statistics, economic principles, and even geography.

In my teens I expanded my repertoire to include chess, go, and bridge.

When I was a young adult there was a new round of games: Diplomacy, Rummikub, Scotland Yard, Uno, followed by the family of train games by Mayfair—starting with Empire Builder, and eventually extending to Eurorails and Iron Dragon.

In the '90s the pace picked up. I was introduced to the breakthrough Eurogame Siedler von Catan (Settlers of Catan in English) designed by Klaus Teuber. Eurogames emphasize strategy while downplaying luck and conflict. They also tend to have economic themes rather than military and are more likely to keep all players in the game until the end.

Designed for 3-6 players, Siedler allows opportunities for players who are lagging behind to slow down the leader, and offers multiple winning strategies. The best version (for my sensibilities) is the Cities and Knights expansion, employing the fish feature and a deck of 36 cards substituting for all possible rolls of two dice. Over the past two decades I've played this game hundreds of times and it remains an all-time favorite.

Then came the no-dice games of which there are now many: Puerto Rico, Trajan, Hansa Teutonica, Caylus, and the games of Uwe Rosenberg, notably Agricola, Le Havre, and Ora and Labora. I am in awe of constructors who can figure out how to craft a game that minimizes random chance yet remains balanced.

For those who want to do more than one thing in an evening, there are shorter games like Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Dominion, Race for the Galaxy, and Splendor.

For the more cooperatively minded, there are a handful of offerings where players unite against the game (either everyone wins or everyone loses). Examples include Arkham Horror, Pandemic, Forbidden Island.

While there are way more games than those named above (who can keep up?), these are ones I've played most and which essentially comprise my gaming universe.

Coincident with the emergence of Siedler, my kids (Ceilee and Jo) became old enough to join me at the gaming table and it was something we did together (instead of a television, we played board games and I read thousands of pages of fiction to each of them). Sometime in the late '90s we hit upon the idea of conducting Game Days: marathon sessions where we'd play all day and occasionally into the night.
(It amuses me to observe that in the last decade Jo and I have exchanged roles with respect to board games. When she was a child I used to introduce new games to her; now it's the other way around. In fact, Jo met her husband, Peter, at a game store in Asheville NC, and they typically participate in gaming nights twice weekly. While Susan and I both enjoy games, we don't play that often.)

Game Day Rules
1. The first game is always Monopoly (which takes us experienced gamers about 45 minutes).

2. The person who finishes last in a game (or the first person eliminated) picks the next game. 

3. No game will be played more than once.

4. In addition to the games themselves, we play a meta game where we kept a running total of points earned this way:

   o  You earn a raw score of 5 points for winning a game; 2 points for second, and 1 point for third.
   o  In addition, there is a multiplier for each game (anything from 1.0 to 1.8) that is used to determine the adjusted score (taking into account the degree of skill/difficulty for that game). By definition, Monopoly has a multiplier of 1.0; for each additional game the players agree on the multiplier at start of the game.

5. The winner of the meta game is the person who accumulates the most total points over the course of the Game Day.

6. Players may selectively drop out of any game. While they score a zero for that game, they preemptively earn the right to select the next one.

Over the years there have been quite a number of people who have participated in Game Days, but the hard core—those who have most consistently indulged in this particular brand of fanaticism—are Jeffrey Harris (who lived for seven years at Dancing Rabbit, just three miles from Sandhill), Ceilee, Jo, and myself.

We tried to reprise this configuration last Friday at Jo's house in Las Vegas, but unfortunately Ceilee was not able to get away from Los Angeles to participate. Still, we had a potent gaming group: Jeffrey, Jo, Peter, and myself—with Susan flying in from Minnesota for a long weekend. While Susan decided to stand back from the intensity of Game Day, she joined us for a recreational game of Ticket to Ride Thursday evening, and a marathon game of Mah Jongg that started Saturday evening and extended into Sunday.

For Game Day we played these five games:
Monopoly
Colonia
Trajan
Railroad Tycoon
Anachrony

While Jo and Peter knew all five games, I was playing Colonia for only the second time, and Railroad Tycoon and Anachrony for the first time. Excepting Monopoly, Jeffrey was playing every game for the first time. While there's a marked tendency to be subject to fool's tax the first time you pencounter a complex game, it was a testament to Jeffrey's game savvy that he hung right in there.

After a stout breakfast we started play around 9:40 am and played until 1 am (with breaks for lunch and dinner). Notably, all four players finished first at least once, and all four of us finished last at least once. (When we played Colonia, Peter won with a score of 26; I finished dead last with a score of 23.) The competition was remarkably even, and I had a wonderful time connecting with family and an old friend. 

Given my improved health these days and the fact that Ceilee, Jo, and Jeffrey all live in the Pacific time zone, I'll be looking more assertively for future Game Day opportunities in the months and years ahead. It's hard to get too much fun and games with family and friends.

2 comments:

elklectic said...

You don't know how happy I am to hear Game Days are revived, even though I don't tend to participate. Big hugs! E

rithkhmer said...

thank for good post and sharing.......

goldenslot
สูตรบาคาร่า