Game Night with my Son

Before college started, I spent an evening playing games with Aidan, my son. We first ate dinner, then worked through some college planning.

A Few Games of Swords & Strongholds

Aidan contemplating how he will yet again crush me.

First we played a few games of Mouseguard: Swords & StrongholdsThe rules are simple, but the strategy fails me. I have played 6 or 7 games against my son, and never won. This evening was no different.

Our last game was a rather protracted game as we each jockeyed for position. Even when I had what I thought to an advantage (see the above picture) things collapsed and Aidan won.

After losing, we pulled out another of our standards – Wyatt Earp; We’ve played this game together since 2005 or so. I’d wager that I have a 80+% winning streak versus Aidan. And my luck held. Two tense games, and I knocked another two victories in the proverbial belt.

It was our only evening together throughout the summer. And I cherished each moment…in agonizing defeat and glorious victory. We laughed as we talked through college stuff, gaming, how his first year of college went, and general life things.

It is very rewarding listening to Aidan’s thoughtful consideration as he works through the complexities of college decisions. I can’t help but smile and beam with pride when he calls up and asks for help and advice.

A Night of Android: Netrunner

Aidan Friesen and I ended up playing 3 games of Android: Netrunner. So far, I’ve been the Corporation and he’s been the Runner. In the first two games Aidan lost – once to Net damage and once to the Corporation advancing enough of their agendas.

In the final game of the night, Aidan and I switched our base decks. And things got interesting. I was playing a Corporation that expanded with greater ease (after all they utilized cloning). Aidan was playing the Anarchists, who made ample use of Virus software.

During this game, I was always struggling to find more $ as I was brining assets, agenda, and ice into play, but unable to quite Rez them (make them active); Whereas Aidan was burning through his deck by drawing 2 cards per turn by paying one action point (instead of the customary 1 card per 1 action point).

Things were looking grim for Aidan, and he even commented that it looked impossible for him to beat some of my ICE. But he soldiered on. Steadily I was picking up victory points, while Aidan was skirting around and building the best runner he could. But then the attacks came, and they were furious; Parasites were eroding my big ICE – all the while as installed viruses were chipping away at my R&D opportunities.

The Runner breach corporate HQ on a few occasions, netting a single Agenda. And then I pounced…gathering a tremendous amount of coin so I could being advancing my final agenda, while protecting it behind some serious defenses.

In one run, Aidan played a fantastic card that gave him tremendous resources at the cost of taking one point of Brain damage – discard a card at random and reduce your maximum hand size by one. A risky move, but with his regular drawing of 2 cards per turn, that disadvantage was almost entirely mitigated.

Aidan, seeing he had one last turn before the Corporation would advance their final agenda, made a risky gamble. With 2 actions, he began his run on a weakened R&D. And came up empty. But his viruses were spreading, and R&D’s servers were more porous for his second run, which netted him two agendas with enough points to steal and win the game.

At one point, I was wondering if Aidan was going to attempt to deck the Corporation by running them out of cards to draw. I wonder how valid of a tactic it would’ve been?

Stomping Through “A Few Acres of Snow” on a Hot as Hell Day

This afternoon my son and I broke out my copy of Martin Wallace’s “A Few Acres of Snow” – I wrote about it previously when I first got it in January.

It is a resource management wargame with asymmetric forces and numerous potential paths to victory. We worked our way through the rulebook with my son sneezing and sniffling due to allergies. There are about 20 different actions, and you can take two actions per turn.

It is a lot to take in, but we dove in and began.  Aidan was playing the English and I was the French.  Early, I went down the path of growing my dominion while Aidan slowly built up his military.

Eventually, our tentative peace was broken when I raided and destroyed a village community.  The drums of war were beating and the British were going to war.  They marched and gained control of several villages, but not after two protracted sieges.  During this time, as the French I was able to draw out the war, but knew I was going to fail.

The game ended very quickly when the French made a successful raid on New York and garnered the required 12 captured points to trigger end of game.  We tallied our score and the French were victorious

Observations

The French income is a lot more feast or famine than the British…with some careful deck manipulation the famine can be mitigated. The English can very easily gain coins.

The British have superior strength on the seas and it makes it very hard for the French to successfully fight for coastal towns.  It may be feasible, but the paths I meandered down weren’t ideal of these confrontations.  The French, however, are well prepared for expanding along the many river ways and executing raids against the unsuspecting villages.

With raiding, I believe it is very easy to reach end game very quickly.  In our game, the British were preparing to mount an offensive against Quebec, but the dastardly French snuck in a raid on New York to draw the game to a conclusion.  Had I waited one more round, the siege of Quebec would’ve begun and the French most certainly would’ve lost.

Aidan and I had a great time playing the game, and we are both eager to play again and try the other side. With our first playing of the game, we meandered through various tactics, never quite executing a well formed strategy.

I definitely think this is a masterpiece game, well designed, oozing with theme.

Just Arrived – A Few Acres of Snow

I’m not referring to Northern Indiana’s lake effect snow, but instead Martin Wallace’s “A Few Acres of Snow.”

Just Arrived - A Few Acres of Snow

Just Arrived - A Few Acres of Snow

A Few Acres of Snow is a 2-player card-driven game about the French and British conflict in North America.  It won the 2011 Golden Geek aware for 2-Player Board Game and Innovative Board Game, and Best Wargame . And it’s card engine is inspired by Dominion.  Sounds fabulous – I love Dominion and innovative game designs.

I’ve been very curious about this game, eyeing it for the past two months.  I’ve tried to negotiate more than one trade on the BoardGameGeek, but most people were hanging onto the game.

Finally, over lunch this past week, my good friend and I stopped in at The Griffon and I picked up a copy. While I haven’t played it, the rules are impressive; Not in the crushing amounts of actuarial tables, but in the breadth of options. The rules speak to military sieges, raids, settlers, commerce, supplies from the homeland, fortifications, etc.

And at the end, a military historian provides a 3 page summary of the factors leading to the conflict, and how the random nature of the “Dominion” type deck creates the delays and unpredictabilities of ridiculously long supply lines (i.e. Europe giving orders by ship to the Americas).

Now the question is, will I be able to play this game with anyone?

Just Arrived – A Brief History of the World

I’ve been trying to find a few of the more involved board games that I enjoyed in high school and college: Axis & Allies, Diplomacy, and History of the World.  I’m somewhat interested in playing them again, but I’m more interested in making sure that I have a few of the more immersive board games available for my son.

There is something wonderful about setting aside several hours to strive for world domination. So this past week, I traded, via the Board Game Geek, for A Brief History of the World.

Maybe my son and his friends will be interested – I’ll play with them if they are interested in losing.  Some of his friends were even part of an Axis & Allies club at their school (they go to different schools).

My wife has pointed out to me that it is possible that my son just isn’t as nerdy as I am…or interested in the same things.  I figure I’ll suggest the game and see if they are interested in learning it.  If not, to the trading stack it goes.

Welcome to the Hive

Recently, we picked up a copy of Hive: Carbon, an abstract tile-placing game by John Yianni.  The game itself reminds me of mix of DVONN, Go, and Chess.

I have been thinking about getting this game for 8 or so years, but always wondered who might I play this with?  It turns out my lovely wife really enjoys abstract games, and was curious about this game.  So when she, the usually frugal one, suggested “What about this game?” I said “Sure! We can even play it outside because the pieces are waterproof”.  Huzzah for resin.

The goal of the game is to surround your opponent’s queen bee, using both your pieces and their pieces. The game starts from a blank slate with each player taking turns either adding a new piece or moving an existing piece.

At no time can the hive be disjoined;  A piece can be moved so long as in doing so all of the other pieces in play remain contiguous.

Akin to Chess, each of the types of pieces have different rules for movement.  Some pieces slide (i.e. you must be able to slide them out of their slot without having to move the adjoining pieces), others can step out of an enclosed area.

Akin to Go, you must concern yourself with degrees of freedom.

The Pieces

Queen Bee (x1): The queen is your most important piece, if she is surrounded, you lose.  She may slide one space.

Spider (x2):  The spider slides exactly three spaces.

Grasshopper (x3): The grasshopper steps out of their spot along a straight line over at least one piece.

Ant (x3): The ant may slide along the entire perimeter of the hive.

Beetle (x2): The beetle steps out of its spot and moves exactly one space; It may move on top of another piece.

Mosquito (x1): From an expansion, the mosquito may move as if it were any piece that it is adjacent too.

Ladybug (x1): From an expansion, the ladybug moves two spaces on top of the hive and then one space down; It may not end its turn on top of the hive.

The Play

The game takes about 10 to 20 minutes to complete, with the hive slowly gaining in size.  As players jockey to surround their opponents queen, pieces will join the board, others will become locked in place, and still others will move to further confine the queen.

Remember to focus on the queens freedoms.  By default, the person who’s queen has the most empty sides is winning.  But that doesn’t tell the whole story.  A grasshopper can quickly vacate it’s adjoining spot by the queen; Likewise a grasshopper can quickly jump into position adjacent to your queen.

Conclusion

I’ve enjoyed the handful of games that I’ve played. There is a depth of strategy to Hive.  I’m looking forward to further exploration.

Y is for YINSH

YINSH by Chris Brum, it is part of the GIPF project; DVONN, which is also a member of the GIPF project.  Like all games in the GIPF project, YINSH is an abstract game.  The rules are relatively simple yet yield a constantly changing playing field.

The goal of the game is to remove three of your rings before your opponent removes three of their rings.  This is done by moving, with some constraints, one of the your rings across the board, and flipping over the tokens that you pass over.  Get five tokens of your color in a row, and you can remove one of your rings.  The process of removing your own rings reduces your available options in play, so it becomes harder to block your opponent.

I have played a handful of games of YINSH with my wife and my son and have always enjoyed my games; It has the feel of Othello, but instead of coping with less and less space, the game feels like it slowly opens up, giving more and more room to breath.

The game itself takes about 20 minutes to play, which means it is perfect as a best 2 out of 3 game.  In fact the GIPF project games each play at 20 or minutes.  The idea being that you start a game of GIPF, and each GIPF project game has a special GIPF piece that you can attempt to play.  In order to play a special piece (i.e. the YINSH piece in the GIPF game), you have to “pause” your game of GIPF, break out another game (i.e. YINSH board), and then win that game.  With victory in hand, you then return to the GIPF game, and play, in this case, the YINSH piece (or DVONN, PÜNCT, TZAAR, ZÈRTZ).