Sunday, April 18, 2010

And now for something completely different ...

My wife and I attended a game Meetup right here in Norwich last night which was a lot of fun.

It's easy for gamers, especially wargamers, to lose sight of how specialized a niche hobby gamers occupy in the universe. Our hostess was a woman who was a self-described game addict who had a fairly extensive collection (several dozens) of games of the sort you'll find in mass market retailers. Many party-type games, trivia games, card games, Scrabble, Apples to Apples, and more of that sort. She had recently played a game of Puerto Rico at another meetup but wasn't really aware that the game represented a doorway to the whole "euro" game scene. She'd never heard of Acquire or Settlers of Catan, let alone something like Cosmic Encounter or Small World that I had also brought along.

She had heard of Fluxx, however, having an edition of the game from 1998, so we played that, largely because it was quick and easy to get into and we were expecting a fifth player to show up any moment and Fluxx is one of the few games you can join in progress. The fourth player was another woman who had recently joined the game Meetup but wasn't yet a "gamer" in the hobbyist sense. Player No. 5 arrived midway through our first game and he jumped right in.

The game was a big success, as it has been every time I've introduced it to a group, and we played three complete games of it. I then suggested we try Martian Fluxx, which was even more popular than the basic Fluxx game. It is slightly more involved, though, so I think it's good to break in novice players on a game or two of the basic game before playing Martian Fluxx.

We played two games of Martian Fluxx (did I mention that Fluxx is quick?) before moving on to something I had never seen before called Sequence. It's not a new game, being around since the 1980s. This is a board game using four decks of cards and some chits. The board depicts two standard decks of cards less jokers and jacks laid out in a grid pattern, with each card shown twice. A play consists of revealing a card and placing a chit in the space showing that card with the objective of getting five chits in a row, rather like Pente. one-eyed Jacks, when played, allow a player to remove an opponent;s chit from anywhere on the board. A two-eyed Jack is a wild card, allowing the play of a chit anywhere. Naturally these powerful and relatively rare cards are the main strategic tools in the game.

I remarked during the game that the main difference between Euro games and traditional American games is that usually in Euros a player is faced with a whole bunch of things he'd like to do but the game forces him to make a choice, while in American games the pattern is more like you have many things you;d like to do and the game won;t let you do any of them. Or another way to look at it is that euros force you to choose between attractive options while in American games you're often stuck without any good moves.

Sequence definitely fell into that category. It's a pretty intense game of strategy, but ultimately rather frustrating because it's pretty easy to be stuck with no good moves. We played twice and the second game turned into a real epic that exhausted the draw deck and was well on its way to exhausting the deck again before someone finally won.

Still, it was an interesting game and while I doubt I'd buy a copy, I would be willing to play it again.

1 comment:

  1. It is nice to play some of the simpler games. I think there is a certain technical draw for the wargamers ppl that enjoy solving a "real life" puzzle. And a lot of time its not just the game but the attitude that you and the other players have toward the game. My wife and neighbors really enjoy Mexican Dominoes and Phase 10. Ive tried to introduce Bang! and Fluxx but its been hard to get people to try for some reason. Liars Dice is one of the best games and all you need is cup and 5 dice per player. Its always a hit.