I’m back in Niagara Falls for a somewhat truncated trip to the Gathering of Friends. This is the annual invitational convention organized by Alan Moon. I think that this is the third year where we’ve been located in Niagara Falls – and I’m just now reaching the point where I feel familiar with the city, and I am comfortable enough that I don’t have to look at maps to get to favorite restaurants, grocery stores, Target, etc. By the end of this trip, Niagara Falls, NY will surely enter the top 10 places in terms of number of days spent there. FWIW, Essen is already in the top 5 for me at over 60 days total in my life spent there!
I will try to write a bit each day and post it to the blog, and the blog will remain open during the duration of the convention (from now until Sunday 4/21) for any of the writers to comment — both those OG writers here in Niagara as well as those who remained home.
Though the drive is only 6 and a half hours, I elected to split the drive in two parts in order to take up an old friend on a long-standing invitation to visit. I had a great night at the home of Craig and Kim Berg, and I am considering this the start of my convention as these two GoF regulars will not be able to make the trip this year – so stopping at their place was the only chance that I’ll get to see them this spring.
After a fantastic dinner, as gamers are wont to do, we settled in for a few games at the dinner table. The first game was Qwixx, a new-ish release from Nürnberger Spielkarten that I had actually not heard anything about prior to yesterday. It is a cute and simple dice game. There are 4 rows on the scoring sheet two that go low to high (2 to 12) and two that go hi to low (12 to 2), and each turn someone rolls 2 white dice and 4 colored dice, 1 ench of the 4 colors on the score sheet. First, the active player totals up the white dice and ALL players have the option of marking that space off in any row. Then the active player has the additional ability to make a pair using one white die and one colored die. If he wants, he can mark off that number on the corresponding color track. There is one catch though, you must fill in spaces from left to right in each row, so if you make a large jump, you lose an opportunity for marking some spaces. If you have at least 5 marks in a row, and the rightmost number comes up, you can mark that space – and close out the color. For the rest of the game, no one can roll that color die and no one can mark off a space in that row. The game goes on until two colors are locked out OR any player has had four turns where he could not make a mark on the score sheet. Then, you add up your scores for each row – essentially it is a pseudo arithmetic progression so that the more marks you have in each row, the more points you will score. From this total, a penalty is subtracted for each turn that you were not able to make a mark. Highest total wins. It seems simple, and it is. But it is a quick game to learn, and you are constantly involved in the game as you have something to do on every roll of the dice. I’ve only played it once so far, but it’s probably a game that I’m going to seek out to buy. It’s in a small box, and I have seen at least 2 copies of it at the Gathering already, so I know I’ll get a chance to play it again.
We also got in a nice game of Angriff der Klonkriegers – the co-op Star Wars game which was done by the Brands. It’s an enjoyable co-op game, though we did have to make the game more difficult by removing 6 Drones from each pile during setup. Unlike many co-op games, at its most basic level, the game is quite simple to beat.
As far as today goes, I’ve been focusing in on the newer titles that I’ve been wanting to play. In my first 5 hours, I’ve played La Boca, Rialto, Fight for Food (the new 2F Friday game) and Enigma, the nice puzzle game from Finland that was released last year. I still hope to play La Boca and Rialto again this week, so I will describe them more at length once I’ve had more opportunity to play them.
For now, the two sentence reviews:
La Boca – interesting puzzle game, though one time thru the partnerships might be enough, not twice like the rules say. This certainly seems like the front runner for SdJ at this point in my eyes given the recent selections
Rialto – A Feld game that borrows the map and some card play from San Marco – but does not borrow so much as to be derivative. It is a solid design without as many mechanics that you’ve come to expect from other recent Feld games (Trajan, Bora Bora)
But here are pictures at least!
Box insert for La Boca
Example of solving an easy card in La Boca
Rialto in the first round of six
My Player board in Rialto
The different buildings in Rialto
Enigma is a puzzle game designed by Touko T., the designer of Eclipse, and it’s a neat combination of solving puzzles with tile play similar to Carcassonne. In my 10+ games of it, I think there may be some question about the balanced-ness of the different puzzles, but that doesn’t seem to bother me. The ability to pick amongst the puzzle types rotates, so it should even out in the end as everyone should have a nearly equal chance to choose the type of puzzle they want.
The last game I’ll talk about today is the newest game in the Friday project, Fight for Food. Per the rules of the Friday project, I’d like to talk about it now (since it’s Friday). It’s called Fight for Food because the pieces in the game right now are miniature candy bars – the sorts of things you give out at Halloween! 5 different types of candies are placed in the center of the table, and each is given a random base value. Then, each player takes their identical set of 5 value chits (+3, +2, +1, -1, -2) and designates one chit facedown to each candy. Those chits are shuffled and one is revealed to give some partial idea to the end value. On your turn, you can either draw candies from the table or you can steal candies from another player.
Prototype pieces for FIght for Food
Setup for fight for food – we’re in the process of choosing base values for the 5 candies
The first player really can only draw candies, and that player may only draw one. The drawn candy is put in front of him (it is not yet locked in and is vulnerable to be stolen). The next player can draw candies in a quantity either one more or one less than the previous player took. If you choose to steal candies, you first state which player you are stealing from. The player being stolen from first gets to choose any one candy to keep permanently. It is put to the side and will be scored at game end. Any remaining candies are then taken by the stealing player and put in front of him.
The player going next can either steal candies or take a number of candies from the center either one more or one less than the number of candies successfully stolen in the previous turn. The game continues until all the candy is taken from the center of the table. Once all the candies are gone, each player in turn gets to lock in any ONE candy that is in front of him. If he has no more candies in front, he could choose to take one which is vulnerable in front of another player. Once all the candies are chosen, the rest of the value tiles are revealed and a final value for each candy is determined. Players then calculate their score and the highest total wins.
End game – Butterfingers were the most valuable, each one worth +15 points while starbursts were only worth 2 points.
It’s a cute game, but I don’t think it is quite refined enough yet. But, at least in the prototype version, everyone wins as Henning is allowing the players to keep any candies collected in the game! I’m sad to say Friedemann is not here this year, so in case Herr FF is reading this — you’re missed already!
OK, it’s late. Time for bed – it’s now midnight.
To recap the other games played today
Angriff der Klonkriegers
La Boca (Advanced cards only)
Dinner Game – Taco Bell.