OK, this year I tried something different for my Gathering trip – rather than sneak up to the room each night to write, I took some short notes on my phone during the event and planned on writing up recap pieces when I got home…
On the fly, I did post some short updates (picture wise) to Instagram and Twitter (@OpinionatedGmrs) – and the other OG writers that are there will likely continue to post things here and there during the week.
This year, I was at the Gathering from Thursday thru Tuesday morning; and now that I’m back home, I’ll try to write something each day.
I still had to work a bit on Thursday morning, so I didn’t get on the road until very late morning – and I did not arrive in Niagara Falls until about 5pm. Along the way, I was super glad to pass through Beachwood, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland) as it let me stop by Choolaah – an Indian fast casual place which makes an awesome spicy-chicken-wrapped-in-a-naan thing… Well worth the stop, and only 35 seconds off the highway exit.
Upon arriving at the hote, it was still pretty sparsely attended. Maybe fifteen gamers were in the ballroom, and only one game was being played as I got there. I had my pick of tables to stack up my game
The first gamer I ran across was fellow OG-er Dan Blum, who I was happy to see because he had a copy of “Welcome to…” from Blue Cocker Games which he had ordered from France. He apparently ordered ten copies, and I managed to reserve the final copy. Prior to dinner, we quickly sat down at the table to play a quick game.
At it’s heart, it’s a “roll-and-write”. Well, you don’t roll dice here, but you do “roll” cards off the top of a card deck. Each player has an identical city map which shows three streets filled with houses. In general, you have to write in numbers in ascending order from left to right.
There is a deck of cards which show a number on the back and an action type on the front. The cards are numbered from 1 to 15. The deck is split into three equal smaller decks and the top card is flipped up from each deck and placed directly beneath. Now, you will have three pairs of cards – a number on the top card of the deck as well as an action just revealed on the flipped card beneath it.
Each player can choose any of the three pairs (the set of the number above and the action below) to then mark off things on their sheet. There are also three objective cards which are laid out at the start of the game, and players that are able to race to score these (the first play to finish a particular objective scores a higher bonus, and then all others that complete it score a lower sum).
The game goes on until one player has scored all three objectives or one player has struck out three times (been unable to legally play a number). Then the points are scored, and the player with the most wins.
I’m a big fan of roll-and-write, and I really like this one (almost love it). As with many games from the Gathering, I was taught one of the rules a little bit wrong, but now that I’ve discovered what we did wrong, it might raise the game from really good to great. But, I’ll have to play it a bit more to figure that out.
Next up was dinner – and it gave me a chance to pay Dan back for getting the game by treating him for wings and beer. The iconic Anchor Bar has just opened up a Niagara Falls location, and this saved me a trip to the “city” to get the real deal. Of course, just about every place in Western NY has wings, pizza or pizza logs – but the tourist in me still wants to go the Anchor Bar.
Upon returning to the game room, Ted Alspach was being super whiny that we didn’t play any games together last year. So, I took one for the team and agreed to play.
We decided to play Cross Talk, the new game from Nauvoo Games. It’s kinda a team-Password game where the two teams compete to guess the target word. Each team has a clue giver, and the start by giving their team a secret word clue. Then, one clue-giver says a clue out loud, and the OTHER team tries to guess what the word is. If they are incorrect, the other clue giver takes a turn, and the opponents then guess. This goes back and forth until the answer is given correctly. It was fun, and an interesting team variant of password. For me, I would usually rather play Decrypto, but this game may work better in larger groups.
Shaky Manor was next up – this is a game from Blue Orange where each player has a 8 room board and a bunch of plastic bits inside of it. A card is flipped up, which shows a particular room and a bunch of things in it. You then try to shake your board to get the exact bits in the right room. The first to do it wins the round. This was a game that I saw at Essen and really liked, but I was waiting for the US version to become available.
Finally, we played King of the Dice, one of the new ones from Haba. Pretty simple family stuff here – roll three times, trying to get a combination of pips or colors on the dice to capture cards.
In this dice rolling game, players are competing kings – each trying to get the best citizens in their kingdom. The background story doesn’t really explain why there would be such a thing as a free-agent citizen who is willing to go to the best kingdom; but put that worry aside as you play the game. The game itself is played with 6 dice with different colored sides as well as three decks of cards: green village cards, red penalty cards and blue citizen cards.
To start the game, the village cards are organized by the art on their front and then placed in ascending order in stacks. They should be arranged (left to right): city, mine, workshop, orc village, enchanted forest. If you can’t remember this, simply remember that it is in ascending order of word length… The 40-card citizen deck is then shuffled, and a row of five cards is dealt out beneath the village cards – one citizen below each village stack.
On a player’s turn – there are three steps that are taken. First, you must roll the dice. You can roll up to three times. You choose to re-roll any or all dice each time that you roll. After the third roll, you must take the final result. You can stop after the first or second roll if you are happy with the result.
Then, you can acquire a new citizen card. Each citizen card has a dice criteria printed at the bottom of the card (as well as a VP total on the top left corner). If your rolled dice match the printed criteria on a citizen card, you can collect that card and place it face up in your kingdom pile. You may only take one card per turn, so if you match the criteria of multiple cards, you have to choose a single one to collect. If you choose a citizen card whose background matches that of the village card above it, you also take the top card of that village stack.
If your dice do not match any of the citizen cards, you must instead take a penalty card from the penalty stack – these are worth anywhere from negative one to negative four points. You also take the rightmost citizen card and place it in the discard pile.
The final part of the turn is to fill up the row of cards. All cards are pushed to the right to fill up the spaces, and a new citizen card is flipped up from the deck to take the leftmost position. The dice are passed to the next player who then takes his turn.
The game continues until one of the three end game conditions is met: the citizen draw deck is exhausted, one of the village stacks is exhausted or the stack of penalty cards is exhausted. Whenever this happens, the game immediately ends
One more HABA game to finish up the night – Karuba the Card game. This is a 6-player card game which feels a lot like the original Karuba but manages to be different in play.
In this game, players have identical decks of 16 cards. Like the base game, points will be scored by playing paths that connect explorers of a particular color to the temple of the matching color. You will also score points if your explorer can pass by gems or gold nuggets along the way. However, unlike the older game, players do not play identical tiles/cards on a particular turn – instead, cards are chosen from a hand of cards, and as a result, each player’s map will grow quite differently from everyone else’s.
As I said, each player has an identical deck of 16 cards, and each player shuffles their deck at the start of the game and deals themselves a hand of 3 cards. There is a square board that is placed in the center of the table which shows the sixteen cards which are found in each deck. The cards are numbered from 1-16. The temples are numbered 13-16, and the explorers are numbered 9-12.
The game is played over eight turns. At the start of each round, each player secretly and simultaneously chooses two cards from their hand. Once all players have selected their pair, all chosen cards are revealed, and each player adds together the numbers on their two chosen cards. The player or players with the lowest sum must discard one of their two chosen cards.
Next, everyone plays their remaining played cards to their tableau. You are building a 4×4 grid at maximum, and you cannot ever play a card that would grow your tableau greater than 4 cards in any dimension. Every card played after the first must be orthogonally adjacent to at least one other previously played card. Like the original game, you may not rotate the cards, the number of the card must always be in the upper left corner.
Finally, each player draws 2 more cards into their hand to bring their hand back up to three cards. After the end of the eighth round, scores are calculated. For each adventurer which can reach his matching colored temple, you score 3 points. The adventurer must take the shortest path possible, and may not enter a particular card more than once. The pictured adventurers block each other, and you cannot pass thru another one of your adventurers. If your successful adventurer passes by gems (1 VP) or gold nuggets (2 VP), the appropriate number of points is also scored. It may turn out that a particular gem or gold nugget is scored multiple times if it is on multiple successful routes.
As I got into town pretty late in the day, that’s all I had a chance to play – time to hit the sack to get a bit of much needed sleep.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor