Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Weekly Game Night - 7 Players -- Too Many?

Well, it's summer, and that means that I may actually have some time to blog.

This week's topic: a weekly game night with seven players.

With the summer, my son is free to join TJ, Tom Grant, Kevin and I for our weekly gaming sessions. I love having a son who is growing into a gamer.

Of course, Kevin's son is also home. AJ is a very established gamer. Kevin even jokes that AJ used to be "Kevin's son" at conventions, but that now AJ has eclipsed him to the point where he is now considered "AJ's dad." Another great addition!

And my nephew Brian is around. He's on summer break from UVA and he's oh so close to becoming a gamer. A must have.

And, I know this makes 8, but our next door neighbor, Isaac, is also available to join  us. One of Owen's friends, intelligent, loves games.

I think have too many gamers is a good problem to have. In general, that is the case, but when you have seven show up for a game night, it becomes slightly problematic.

Suddenly, we are desperate to find the right game. I am somewhat reluctant to split into two tables, but seven is so many.  Diplomacy would take seven, but, sadly, I don't own it. How about Struggle of Empires? Hmmm...I'd hate to play a game that is not really in its best light, especially one of my favorites.

So we ended up playing the following over the past two weeks (both with seven players):

1. Liar's Dice - my first experience with the actual Richard Borg design (I guess it's actually called Command and Colors: Probabilties?), but I had a great time. My wife and daughter, both non-gamers, were a little distressed by the noise of the dice cups (okay, actually the noise of the dice cups and the raucous exclamations and laughter that followed).  But the addition of the "star" spaces and the wild results themselves made this a much more interesting game than the Pirates of the Carribean version I had been playing. The simple mechanism the board uses to help you figure the probabilities is also an excellent addition. But this game is, sadly, a bit light for our game nights these days. Great filler, great family game (anyone got a copy for sale?), but not a go-to game for game night.

2. The Resistance - Says it takes 5 to 10, and, again, it lasts 15 to 30 minutes, but it's again an intense 15 to 30 minutes. The simple mechanics and required teamwork of voting people into teams and trying to make  sure each player is loyal to the cause (and, if you're a spy, to make sure the others don't figure out who's against the cause) makes for some very interesting late game (okay, 20 minutes into the 30 minute play time) discussions. An interesting situation arose in our game where two spies were on the same 3 person away team. Unfortunately for the spies faction, both spies played their "fail" cards. Suddenly, it became easier for the rest of the Resistance to figure out who was loyal and who was not. One of the spies should have ducked, playing his "success" card, while counting on his fellow spy's play of the "fail" card. Educated guessing is at the heart of any game, and this simple game gets to that core. Truly fun, truly interesting (I actually want to try this with the expansion some time), but, again, a short game not worthy of filling up a 5 hour game night.

3. Seven Wonders - I'm coming around to thinking that this is an excellent design, particularly for larger groups (I realize this puts me about 3 years behind the curve). Simultaneous decision making and playing make for a quick game where number of players has little effect on game time. This game also has one of my favorite things in the gaming world - multiple paths to victory. Another thing I love in games is improvisation. I like being able to make educated guesses and having the ability to make some assumptions (such as "AJ is playing for the green cards" - seemingly a safe assumption in any Seven Wonders game), but I also love the way that a game can throw something unexpected at you, forcing you to adjust your strategy. So, multiple paths to victory combined with forced improvisation? You had me at "hello." But, again, a short game that really can only be played so many times in a row.

So where does that leave me? In short, it leaves me with two many players for one table. We're a bit crowded (especially with Seven Wonders), even to the point where in Resistance, I could not figure out who the third spy was! (It was Isaac, who had inadvertently outflanked me when we did the "eyes open" reveal, and what are you going to do, exclaim, "Wait, wait. Let's keep our eyes closed a few minutes longer..."?). So, in the future, we'll probably be splitting into a 3 player game and a 4 player game.

That, of course, presents a new problem --when you divide into 2 tables, is there always an "A" table and a "B" table? Hmmm...

Possible Future topics - six player games, zombie games, ASL, Polis

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