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?

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?

A Night of Race for the Galaxy

I just finished up 4 face-to-face three-player games and 2 face-to-face four-player games of Race for the Galaxy.

In all but the last game, it felt as though the game had the right pacing.  The last game felt like it ended too quickly; The difference for me was that I wasn’t aware that the end game had creeped up.

One of the early complaints I had (and my wife still has) about the game was that it ends too quickly.  You didn’t get to savor what was going on.

Now, having played Keldon’s AI quite a bit, where games can take 5 minutes or less, I feel as though a 20 minute face-to-face game feels just right.  It’s not that there are any less turns, but I more deliberately interact with the game.

In fact, as we were playing, I was taking a bit of time to look at the emerging story.  The Doomed World settled Dying Colony and then settled an Deserted Alien World; Those people just couldn’t catch a break.  Or the Separatist Colony that conquered  the Devolved Uplift Race, and leveraged their Galactic Advertising, to push into the Consumer Markets. And there was the Doomed World that developed Research Labs and funded the Pan-Galactic Research all in an attempt to find a new home.

Besides, playing games face-to-face with friends is much better than playing against a computer.

The Phoenix of Tichu

The Phoenix of Tichu is arguably the strongest single card, but it comes with a hefty cost. It compliments almost any hand, and certainly never hurts it.  Use it to make a run, a three of a kind, or simply beat that lone Ace that was played. It can be the glue that holds your hand together. This versatility is offset by its -25 point value. And unlike the Dragon, if you win the trick the Phoenix will come to roost with you.

It pairs well with the Mah Jong, improving the odds of an initial low card run.  While it can’t be used to explicitly fulfill a wish. (e.g. If someone wishes for a 5, I do not have to play the Phoenix as a 5).  However, if there is a wish to be fulfilled and you have the card that was wished for, but need the Phoenix to play the same denomination (i.e. a straight, or a pair, etc.), then you must fulfill the wish.

Imagine the glory of playing the Mah Jong as part of a five card run, wishing for an Ace, and watching as the trick is not taken.  Then you lead out with your triple 7s and watch as your opponent plays two Aces and the Phoenix.

As with the Dragon and Dog, having knowledge of who has the Phoenix is boon.  After all, once the Dragon is out, the Phoenix can be the highest card.  As such, I consider passing the Phoenix as a viable default.  If my hand has lots of pairs, the Phoenix can likely help my partner glue together a run.  If, on the other hand, I have lots of singletons, I’ll keep the Phoenix.

Never pass the Phoenix to your opponent.  If you can’t make use of the Phoenix, then your partner can…I promise.

One thing to keep in mind, as you are playing out the hand, is that you can give your opponents the Phoenix points by simply holding onto the card until the hand is done.  This tactic is best employed when your partner has gone out first.  The reason being that if your partner goes out first, then your tricks are safely yours.  But don’t slack off if there is a chance for you and your partner to go out 1st and 2nd.

The Dragon of Tichu

Tichu’s Dragon is the most powerful singleton in the game.  You can count on it to win a trick…though a well-timed bomb can ruin this plan.

As the hand is played out, the singletons are played differently before the Dragon is played and after the Dragon is played.  This is particularly true when both members of one team knows where the Dragon is.  The possessor of the Dragon can very much take a “wait and see” approach to the trick, after all, they can always step in.

When you take a trick with the Dragon, pass it to the opponent that you believe will go out last; When in doubt pass it to the player who’s turn is furthest from yours.  At least this way, if your team goes out first, you might be able to reclaim the 25 points from the Dragon.

Keeping the Dragon can help ensure that you have a powerful hand.  Though passing the Dragon gives your team an advantage in regards to where the most powerful singleton is. Or it could simply mean “I have weak hand and I want you to call Tichu.” Never pass the Dragon to an opponent.

As with most plays in Tichu, you must weigh the use of the Dragon.  If the trick has 25 points on it already (5, 10, K) then does taking the trick justify giving the opponents 50 points?  Also, if you have the Dragon and are passed the Dog, what should you assume?  Personally, if I receive the Dog and have the Dragon, I will make sure that my partner sees the Dragon early so they can account for that knowledge.

The Dog of Tichu

Oh the ever loyal Dog.  Your simple function is to pass the lead to your partner.  Of course you must first have the lead.  Below are a few stratagems, many of which are rather self-evident.  After all the Dog is not that complicated of a card.

Never…

  • Pass the Dog to your partner if your hand is terrible.
  • Play the Dog if your partner has not called (Grand) Tichu and has yet to play a card.

Always…

  • Play the Dog if your partner has called Tichu.
  • Keep the Dog if your partner has called (Grand) Tichu.
  • Doggedly fight for the lead against your opponents if your partner called Grand Tichu and you have the Dog.

Consider Carefully…

  • Before you play a card and have received the Dog from your partner…
  • for your partner may be wishing to call Tichu
  • Before you play a card and have passed the Dog to your partner…
    • for your partner will be assuming that you will call Tichu
  • Before you pass the Dog to the opponent who called (Grand) Tichu…
    • for your opponents may go out 1st and 2nd.
  • Before you leave the Dog as your last play…
    • for what looks to be a “lay down hand” may be undone by a well timed bomb.
  • When you receive the Dog from an opponent…
    • for they may be working to weaken your hand.

    W is for Wyatt Earp

    Wyatt Earp, designed by Mike Fitzgerald and Richard Borg, is a Rummy-type game.  Each player is trying to collect the bounty on one of seven outlaws, and the reward grows the greater the outlaws infamy.

    This is a game that I have been playing with Aidan, my son, for many years.  Both of us enjoy the tension of whether we will capture the outlaw; Either through playing cards to help our cause, or playing cards to hinder the other player’s cause.

    The tension in the game is most evident when “Sheriff” cards are played.  When the typical Sheriff card is played, you need to immediately reveal the top card of the deck to see if the Sheriff card takes effect.  Does the gamble pay off?  And if it does, to the victory goes the gloating right!

    The game plays rather quickly, typically 2 to 3 hands at 10-15 minutes per hand.  What this means is that Aidan and I can typically enjoy a game in the time it would take to watch a television episode.  With the Sheriff mechanic there is tension, and resulting trash talk.  All told, a great means of bonding with my son.

    The game plays best with 3-players, so the times that Savannah has joined us, we’ve seen a more interesting cadence.  Alliances form and dissolve quickly as fortunes ebb and flow.

    All told, Wyatt Earp is a great game.  Not to complicated, plenty of tension and luck, but with rewards for strategy and patience.