Board Games

We had a great time bringing in the new year last night with friends and family. Two of our very dear friends and my brother-in-law came over last night to play a few board games and wait for the ball to drop. Our friends brought tasty monkey bread and sparkling grape juice to add to the festivities. We played a game of Settlers of Catan (full on 5 player base game + seafarers + cities and knights) and then a round of Ticket to Ride (USA map). My wife won Catan and I managed to pull off the win in TTR, which was nice after not even being in contention in Catan. We had to pause TTR about a third of the way through the game to go into the other room for the ball drop on television, but then we returned and finished up the game. It was a really fun way to start 2009.

There is a new couple that started coming to our Sunday school class a few weeks ago, and we had them over tonight for dinner and to play Catan. Lindsey found out that they played when they first came (I think she asks people when she meets them :-), so we thought it would be a fun chance to get together. Lindsey came over, too, but unfortunately Randy was out of town. So there were five of us, and we played the base game with Seafarers. The new couple has only played the base game before, so we didn’t want to add too much all at once, but they really enjoyed the Seafarers expansion (and Dusty won the game!), so next time we’ll have to break out the Cities and Knights. It’s always fun to find new people to play Catan with!

We had some people from our small group over to watch football and play board games on New Years Day and we all had a lot of fun. I’m not too interested in football, but we visited and talked about our holidays during the game, too, so it was nice to catch up with everyone. When we got around to playing board games, we once again decided on Settlers. We played the basic game with six players (and even then a few of the “players” were teams). I was soundly beaten this time around. I had seven points at the end of the game, but no real chance to increase that number any time soon. I tried to use an ore-wheat strategy, but ore ended up being pretty scarce throughout the game, so my 2-to-1 ore port initial placement didn’t really do anything useful for me. Curtis won the game without the largest army or the longest road. He managed to build four cities and two settlements (and only seven roads), helped quite a bit by a 2-to-1 sheep port and several placements on fields. We used the dice instead of the new event cards, and it once again demonstrated that the random dice throws can sometimes be very off balance. We rolled considerably more 12’s than 6’s, which was pretty crazy. I think it might be nice to use the event cards for the dice rolls but just ignore the special events on the cards. That gets you a better distribution of numbers but doesn’t disturb the normal game flow that people are used to.

We had our Sunday school class Christmas party last night. We had about 25 or so people for dinner, dessert, and a white elephant gift swap. Joy and I had a great time visiting with everyone and enjoying all of the great food. After the gift swap about half of the people left and the rest of us played Catchphrase for about two or two and a half hours. I have no idea why, but our class always seems to play Catchphrase whenever we have parties. My team was definitely the losing team. We managed to win only one round out of the fifteen to twenty we played. Pitiful, yes, but we still had a blast. Everyone was in a good mood and we had a great time laughing at the crazy words that came up and our attempts to get our teams to guess them. After we had had enough of Catchphrase, almost everyone else left and then a few of us stuck around for a game of Settlers of Catan. We played with the regular box and Cities and Knights (no Seafarers) and we used the event cards instead of the dice. Lindsey won, as she frequently does, but I don’t think any of the rest of us were left too far out of the game. We finally finished the game just after 2 AM, and that really makes me wonder: why in the world do we not start games of Catan earlier in the evening so they end at a sensible time?!? It’s madness, I tell you (but it sure is fun!).

My sister and brother-in-law came over tonight to play Settlers of Catan with us. They played with some friends down in Florida where they live, and when they found out that Joy and I also like to play, we decided we should definitely play a game while they were up here for Thanksgiving. We played with the Seafarers expansion because that’s how Becca and Matt played down in Florida, so it was what they were used to. We also used the new card deck add-on that you use instead of rolling the dice. It removes some of the randomness of the dice so that the “rolls” are closer to a normal distribution (but it still has some variability). I think the new card deck is both good and bad. The deck certainly removes a little bit of the luck factor, which makes each roll game a bit more predictable (i.e. you are not going to get a string or 2 or 12 rolls for the unfortunate few on those hexes). But in addition to showing the dice rolls, the cards also sometimes have extra activities that go along with the roll. The extras usually involve certain players gaining or losing resource cards based on their position in the game (some deal with harbors, knights, total points on the table, etc). The end result is that there are more cards in play earlier in the game, which overall is a good thing to get the game going a little quicker. Sometimes the initial rounds are a bit slow as people slowly build up enough cards to start building things. If I had to say right now, I’d say I probably like it better than using dice, but I’ll have to play with the deck a few more times to know for sure if I really like it or not.

Joy and I went on a retreat with our Sunday school class last night. We were basically just enjoying fellowship with one another and also trying to see what direction we should take in the coming year. It was a neat time to get to spend with some people that are very special to Joy and I. In addition to our planning, praying, worship, and discussion, we also managed to squeeze in a game of Settlers of Catan late Friday night. We started about 11 PM and finished up shortly after 2 AM. So that makes two weekends in a row with late night Settlers on Friday evening. I think we need to figure out a way to start our games a little earlier so we don’t go so late. :-) Anyway, we played Seafarers and Cities and Knights together, with a discovery board layout for Seafarers. I ended up getting very lucky with a long string of land (instead of water) on my discovery route, and I think that let me fly under the radar as I built up the longest road and a number of settlements along my discovery path. I eventually won the game in a tight finish. Mark, who won last week, was very close to me, and it basically came down to who could secure the longest road as it went back and forth between various people. I actually had to use the merchant on one of my hexes to get the final point to win. If we had gone around the board one more time, I think there is a good chance that Mark would have pulled it off instead of me. So it really was very close.

Our Sunday school class had a Settlers of Catan game night last night. It turns out that a lot of people in our class play Settlers, so we thought it would be fun to get together and go all out. There were also some people there who weren’t as crazy about Settlers as the rest of us, so they played a few other games while the rest of us participated in four separate Settlers tables (one table of 6 players using Seafarers, and three tables of the standard 4 player game). In that first portion of the evening when the four separate games were going, I managed to win my table (barely) using an ore-wheat strategy. I got boxed in about half way through the game and I was completely unable to expand (not good planning on my part). I ended up winning with three cities, the largest army, and two victory point cards in a very close game.

After all the simultaneous games ended, most people left, but seven of us stayed for a final game together. We played with both Seafarers and Cities and Knights (my first time with Cities and Knights) in a 6 player game. Joy actually sat the final game out because Settlers really isn’t her favorite (she spent the first part of the night on Scrabble and Scattergories). Anyway, I did not win the final game, which went to Mark in a well-earned victory after a long drawn out end game where he got kind of stuck because no one would trade with him and the robber perpetually resided on his hexes. But he eventually pulled it off at 2 AM and set us all free to go home and sleep!

FYI – In the final game, I vastly underestimated the importance of commodities, which I will need to pay much more attention to next time in my initial placements and early expansions.

In addition to Settlers of Catan, which I wrote about a few days ago, Joy and I also got another new game recently: Carcassonne. It’s a tile laying game where you’re basically trying to build roads, cities, or farms. It’s really not too complicated, but there are lots of sneaky ways to play your tiles. Joy and I have played four games over the past three days. She grudgingly played the first game just so I would stop pestering her to try out my new game, but ever since then she has been the one asking to play. And if Joy’s asking to play a board game, you know it has to be good.

Last night our small group played Settlers of Catan (we had several people away on vacation and stuff, so we decided to have a game night instead of pressing ahead without everyone there). SoC is a “euro” style board game, which basically means the rules are a bit complicated, there are multiple ways to win, and there is generally a lot more strategy to the game mechanics as opposed to luck.

We played as four “teams” of couples, and needless to say for our first time out, Joy and I simply got crushed in every way possible. Seriously, we got whipped. I had read up on the instructions and everything beforehand because we have several people in our group quite enamored with SoC, so I figured we would end up playing it. However, I now realize that knowing “how” to play the game is not remotely the same thing as knowing how to “play” the game, if you know what I mean.

Still, I really, really enjoyed the game. I know a lot of things I would do differently next time, and I’m defnitely looking forward to whenever that “next time” might be. It’s pretty cool to play a game where you have to think a bit, and where your strategy (not that Joy and I actually had any kind of a coherent strategy last night, but if we did…) is constantly adjusting to what other players are doing. I thought it was great.

We had a game night this evening with our small group from church. Every few weeks we do something “fun” instead of our normal study. Not that we don’t enjoy our study, but you know what I mean.

Anyway, we played two rounds of Taboo and two of Scene It. I’m not exactly a Taboo wizard, but I did okay and we had a good time. I had never played Scene It before, so it was fun to try something new. We played the standard version of Scene It that primarily deals with more recent movies, but I think would have done better with the Turner Classic Movies edition that is also available, just based on the movies I tend to watch. Still, it was fun, and there are several people in our group who definitely know a lot of movies.

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