Holiday Gaming and Getting Back into the Swing of Things

December 30, 2011

Well, the dearth of posts recently is a direct result of the small number of games I’ve been playing. But once I went on Christmas break, I planned to change all that. Here’s an excerpt from an email I sent to my family a week ago:

I am desperate to play a board game with you. 
I pine for the moment when I hear my brother scream, “Don’t touch my men!”
I wish so badly to see Dad’s Lex Luthor plans come to naught. 
I want to win (or lose) Power Grid to my sister-in-law by a margin of no cities and $1. 
I desire to lose to the Wifey in Man-ovaries. [Editor’s note: this is code for Manoeuvre]
I need to hear Mom call someone “an ass” in the heat of the moment.

By and large, my gaming plans were realized with both my family and my in-laws. My wife and I ended up participating in seven games Dec. 23-27. Here are some of the highlights:

Funglish: We got my mom this game for her birthday but no one had yet had a chance to play it. Five minutes of reading the rules and we were off and running. This game is fast and furious, especially with great guessers like my sister-in-law. I also like that you play with a partner when you are the clue-givers, but in the end your score is your own. (I beat my sister-in-law out by one point.)

Manoeuvre: My wife, Sara, and I played this the afternoon of December 23 against each other. As our last bout was in late August, we were both a little rusty. Sara played the doughty Americans, while I took the wily Spanish. However, I was beaten in a nightfall victory. Sara outmatched me early on and took out some of my units, but played cautiously and went for the long game. (I lost by 1 point.) All in all, this was fun game, and it reminded me that I need to play Manoeuvre more often to keep up my game. Also, we’re thinking of playing with chess clocks next time!

Power Grid: My family started this at 8:30 PM on the 23rd and ended at 11:45. Phew, what a meatgrinder! We had a lot of fun though. Again, I reviewed the rules with everyone and we were off and running. We played on the Germany map but blocked off the easiest starting region in the west, which made this game a bit expensive for each company. My brother quickly cordoned his wife’s territory off, and hilarity ensued as she stewed! After a slow start, I got my company’s “engine” running and expanded in the northeast, winning by a margin of two cities with plenty of cash left over.

After a short Christmas Eve drive to my in-laws’ new house, it was time for…

Dirty Clubs: I don’t know why, but we all love this card game, a variation on bid euchre. It’s a simple trick-taking game that I am terrible at. Yes, you, dear reader, can bear digital witness to my three last-place finishes at a table of seven people. Ouch. And no, I will not blame the lateness of the hour or the fine craft beer that may or may not have been involved. As always, hilarity ensued whenever we entered the last round of play, in which each player draws a card and sticks it to his or her head, “Indian poker” style, before bidding.

Best of Tribond: We started this game late, and it took hours to play, but that’s probably because my sister-in-law and I, dubbed “Team Beer Face,” were causing too much mayhem. Although we didn’t win, we had a blast and came in second. I love this game and the style of the questions: “What do an arrow, stairs, and an airline have in common?” “Answer: they all have flights.” However, it was older entertainment questions which did us in, as my partner and I are both in our 20s and don’t know a lot about older TV shows and the like.

All in all, it was a great way to end the year with some laid back gaming. Next week, look for my 2011 retrospective–it’s good, bad, and ugly!

The bitter end for my Spanish troops!
“Our country is addicted to oil.”
End of the game. (I played black.)

Gaming on the Go: Guatemala Preview

January 13, 2010

Gaming on the Go is a feature about boardgames and travel.

In a few days, I’ll be headed down to Guatemala for the first time, leading a group of students on a service trip. The past months have been all about getting passports ready, transportation arranged, and fundraising coffee sold, but as I start to pack for the trip itself, I think about our free time (and gaming). We’ve been told by the volunteer coordinators at our service site that things get pretty quiet at night, and we are encouraged to bring along cards and small games for entertainment.

Fully aware that my group consists of senior (17-18 years old) boys, I’m opting to bring  rules for some simple but highly interactive card and dice games. Here are my choices:

  • Mafia (known commercially as Werewolf) is a basic interaction game in which a group of villagers attempt to discover who is secretly killing them off one by one. I used to play this with my campers when I was a camp counselor–good gory fun. I greatly enjoy playing the Narrator and just watching the action.
  • Cribbage is small and versatile–you can play with partners or individually. A few of the other trip participants are bringing boards down too, so there’s the potential for a tournament over the course of the week, on the plane ride, in airports killing time, etc.
  • Dirty Clubs is a very simple trick-taking card game that is equally fun with five or ten players. At the start of each round, you wager how many tricks you think you’ll take based on the power of the cards in your hand. Bid over or under the actual number of tricks you take and you lose points. Lots of tension in this game.
  • Ten Thousand (known commercially as Farkel) is a dice game in which players simply roll six dice, determine which ones score them points, and then opt to pass or keep rolling dice. Stretch yourself too thin and you’ll get nothing. I was introduced to this by my in-laws, and it fills a certain niche: an incredibly simple game that a seven-year old could play that allows you to hold a conversation about something else while playing.
  • Pacific Typhoon is a WWII-themed trick-taking game from GMT. I just got this for Christmas, and have quickly found it is easy to learn but hard to master. Lots of opportunities for backstabbing, with a theme they’ll find accessible and interesting.

It’s amazing how much you can get out of a deck of cards, a cribbage board, a set of dice, and a very small gamebox. Hopefully these will provide some evening entertainment after a long day of physical labor. I’d love to hear about your favorite travel games; leave a comment below.