Category Archives: Games

Bits And Pieces

Just a quick one tonight, as the power’s going to go off in not-too-long, and the outage is supposed to last until about when it’ll be time to get up.

I’ve crossed a few things off my to-do list the last couple of days. Sorted payment for the web sites, arranged an eye test because I need a new prescription to get a new pair of glasses (my current pair got scratched while playing hide and seek with Oldest outside, in the dark), wrote the first draft of an article for a site I frequent. Did some of the data collection for my planned site. Some items go really quickly, and some take a really long time (such as the last one I did today.

The Steam key for Civ IV came through, am going to try and enter that before we lose power.

Played some Final Fantasy VII with Oldest today (disc 1, having left the Gold Saucer, we got to Cosmo Canyon, for those that means anything to). Oldest, familiar with the Star Wars music, recently saw an orchestra playing the Imperial March, He hadn’t realised quite how many instruments, or how many people playing the same kind of instrument, there were in an orchestra. He said he didn’t realise it was that “complicated”. So today, a while after we’d stopped playing FF7, I put on a YouTube video of the very beginning of FF7 for him. Then I put on that same music (“Opening/Bombing Mission”) on my Distant Worlds DVD. The full orchestra is playing it, and clips from the game are shown on a projector screen behind them. Oldest thought this was also “complicated” (quotes because that’s the part I can guarantee are his words). We saw a few more tunes on the DVD before he had to get ready for bed.

Smoke me a kipper, internet: I’ll be back for breakfast.

Some Musings On Star Wars Videogames

There have been quite a variety of Star Wars games over the years, and, as you would expect, their quality level goes all over the place. Here’s some thoughts on some outings I’m acquainted with.

Lego Star Wars
I’ve played the Complete Saga on DS, and tried out the Original Trilogy on PC before its DRM screwed me over. I like the Lego humour, and while not taking itself too seriously, still seems to have a fondness for the source material. Shame about the DRM, because on PC I could actually play with Oldest. After getting 100% on Lego Star Wars, then Lego Lord Of The Rings and Lego Marvel Superheroes on DS, I haven’t really been in a hurry to play any of them through again.

Dark Forces
Back in the days when the original Doom was all the rage, someone came up with the idea of a Star Wars first-person shooter. You, as Not-Han-Solo Kyle Katarn, are dropped off on a series of solo missions. The story is told between missions, and you’re often finding your way into Imperial bases. You start off retrieving the plans for the Death Star, then gradually discover the existence of the Dark Trooper project: battle droids that are actually tougher than the stormtroopers (the prequel trilogy hadn’t come out, yet). It did a good job of telling the story, level design was pretty good, I’ve finished it once, and played it a few times since.

Dark Forces II: Jedi Knight
Man! A lightsaber in Dark Forces would have been really handy. Kyle discovers that he, too, can become a Jedi. I recall it seemed like ages before you got the lightsaber, but it seems that it was only level 4 out of 21. Interestingly, the demo for the game was of level 9. I completed the game once, haven’t really felt the desire to go play it again, but I don’t recall it being bad. Perhaps not as interesting as the first one. I played some of the expansion, Mysteries Of The Sith. It seemed that some detail, texture or shading, wasn’t quite as well done as the main game. I stopped at some point, and never came back to it.

Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
There’s a thing about first- and third-person shooters. If they’re not done quite right, you can get motion sickness while playing them. Or some sort of unwell-feeling. It’s worse for onlookers, who aren’t controlling the character, but it’s not good when the player gets it. I got a way into this game, but could only play for certain lengths of time before starting to feel a bit sick. Never finished this one. Kyle had given up being a Jedi, and has to get back into the swing of things for this game, so again you spend some time working towards getting Force powers and lightsabers.

Jedi Knight III: Jedi Academy
This time round, it seemed like there was no dilly-dallying around before you go to the lightsabers and the Force powers, and I don’t recall feeling sick this time round. I think this was the best outing of the series with a lightsaber. Don’t remember much of the story, so Dark Forces gets the edge there for “best in series”, and I haven’t felt an urgent need to go play it again, but I get a better feeling about replaying this one than the other two Jedi Knight games.

Star Wars: Empire At War
Though still being miffed at its DRM saying I had Virtualdrive or equivalent installed when I didn’t (and not taking too kindly to a game telling me what else I can and can’t have installed on my machine), I played through this one and won. Controlling the Death Star and AT-ATs was, of course, fun. Got a feeling there may have been a unit limit, which I’m not too fond of in my RTSes, being spoiled on the Command And Conquer: Red Alert series. The effects of controlling certain planets, and the bonuses you get from that, were a good idea. Haven’t given any thought to installing it again, having been through a few OS reinstalls since I played it.

Knights Of The Old Republic II: The Sith Lords
I picked this up second-hand a while ago, such that I don’t remember exactly where. Finally got around to installing it last week, and have been trying it out. Took a while to get it working, there is some obscure shader setting in the Graphics options that needs to be turned off, otherwise the game will crash. Similar to Jedi Outcast, you’re an ex-Jedi having to get back into the swing of things. You can start getting Force powers pretty early, and I haven’t gotten to the point of getting a lightsaber yet. I’m running it with the Restored Content mod, and the extra level.
First impressions: It’s a bit RPG-ish, you level up, and when you do you can enhance particular skills and powers, or learn new ones. In theory, it adds a layer to any puzzle-solving you have to do. Also, how you talk to people can affect how much they like you, how you fit on the scale of Light Side to Dark Side, and there’s even dialogue that lets you choose early on, the gender of a character you meet later on, and whether they’re good or bad (and as I found that out, I don’t remember which I chose). Choices affecting aspects of the world around you is a great notion, though I don’t have an opinion yet as to how well they pulled it off. On the other hand, I’m very much noticing the linearity of the level design: so far you just kind of follow the path, then you’ll get your objectives and side-objectives done. Which is a bit of a contrast to those other aspects of the game where you actually make choices. I suspect this will affect the replay value, but we shall see.

Do you have opinions on any of the above games, or any other Star Wars games? I can think of at least 4 more that I’ve played that didn’t make this post, and at least two more that I own and haven’t got around to playing. anything I should put on my list to try?

DRM Rant: Brought On By Civilization IV

I am not a fan of DRM. You sell your product, now let people use it. I can understand why the companies put it on, of course, they don’t want people copying their product. That’s not unfair, of course, but the end is not achieved by the means. People break the copy protection, and share the cracked games, ripped movies, and so on, and then other people go looking for them and downloading them. Don’t put the DRM on and pass the savings on to your consumers, more people will buy the product.

That’s not the only issue, of course: DRM can negatively impact legitimate users.

Like, I can buy Blu-Rays and not watch them on my computer, because I stick with VLC and most Blu-Ray discs don’t work on VLC.

Or, I can put Myst 5 or Star Wars: Empire At War in my machine, and they (at one point) complained that I had VirtualDrive on my computer. I didn’t, and that’s not any of their business anyway.

Had a legitimate disc of LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, it worked once, then every time after that told me to put in a legitimate disc rather than a copy. Got Battlefield 2142 second-hand, wouldn’t let me use the CD key in the box (“already registered to somebody else” – well deregister them! The key is mine now), and I wouldn’t pay more than twice what I originally paid for it, to get a new key (“throwing good money after bad”). I was only interested in the solo campaign, not multiplayer online, apparently didn’t make a difference.

Players of Civilization IV on Windows 7, 8.1 and 10 machines have noticed that their game doesn’t work on those systems any more. Games of its era often used Digital Rights Malware (that’s what it really stands for, right?) that put files where they didn’t belong, to check up on their users.

Microsoft have recently issued updates that stop these kinds of shenanigans. It causes a big inconvenience to a lot of people still playing games from that era, but as these DRMs can leave security holes in a computer system, I’d say it’s a good call. And perhaps unusual for a company that has been known to have a level of paranoia about users being legitimate (I recall hearing of genuine users being negatively affected by the Windows Genuine Advantage check, when that was introduced, though I never had a problem).

I’d say this is another case of companies using DRM, and legitimate users being negatively affected. This harsh judgment is softened, however, by the fact the game worked for around 10 years without a problem.

On the other hand, why would a company be concerned about the DRM on a ten-year-old game, when they have more recent versions out?

for Civilization IV, at least, the Beyond The Sword expansion has had the 3.19 patch for years now, one of the benefits of it being that it doesn’t require the CD to run anymore, so it doesn’t fall afoul of this new problem.

Earlier, I used the 2K games support system to suggest they add a similar patch to regular Civ IV and Warlords (an earlier expansion). In researching the problem, I found one thread suggesting that 2K games might be giving away Steam keys to the game, for legitimate users.

I haven’t heard back yet, so I can’t confirm the accuracy of that suggestion. Yet.

As I actually run Beyond The Sword, and, more often, the Planetfall mod, I don’t feel that affected. I’m sure I have plenty of games that will now refuse to work, were I to try them.

How many people will be hunting for NoCD cracks for games? How many people are driven to pirated versions of games because they work better than the legitimate versions?

The great philosopher Princess Leia once said something along the lines of, “The more you tighten your grip, the more systems will slip through your fingers”. Hopefully one day, the publishing companies will realise just how much this applies to them.

New Set Day! And STCCG Brief History

I’ve collected and played the Star Trek: Customizable Card Game since 1994, or possibly 1995. The first cards I got had the 1994 copyright date. Initially, the company that made it, Decipher, branded it as The Next Generation, as they only had the rights to that show at the time. A bit later on, they got the rights to the other TV shows, and the movies.

Adding lots of cards over a long time does tend to make a game convoluted. Some rules changed from the original rulebook, and a long Glossary came into being to help clarify what some cards do, and/or their interactions with other cards. After several years, the game got a bit complicated even for Decipher, and they started afresh with a Second Edition (2e). They made some cards that were backwards-compatible, which were initially well-screened, but then later on some crazy ones slipped through, which were either too powerful, or did absolutely nothing, in 1e.

Decipher ran into financial trouble, and lost their licenses (they had a Star Wars game or two, and a Lord Of the Rings game). Decipher passed on the use of the 1e and 2e mechanics to a players’ group called The Continuing Committee. I think they did something similar with the Star Wars game, but I never really got into that.

The CC started with an emphasis on 2e, but slowly worked their way into 1e, starting with making printable versions of useful cards, before branching out into making new cards.

After a few sets, the CC made a big splash with a set called The Next Generation. One of the problems they had encountered was that the power level of the game had increased over the years, but returning players were much more likely to have cards from the first three sets (Premiere, Alternate Universe, and Q-Continuum, often abbreviated to PAQ), which is really a very different game to that of any stage after, even beginning with the following set, First Contact.

They actually did a very good job with different ways of making old cards useful (and not just as backing for new cards). They also made The Next Generation a starting point for a new format, Block, which is an excellent environment for introducing new players. There’s a limited card pool, which makes it easier to learn, then you can throw in more cards later.

The first three Block sets concentrated on The Next Generation, establishing as a powerful faction in the game, despite their below-average general card power.

In the game, Voyager cards were distinct by being generally stuck in the Delta Quadrant (and being somewhat ahead of the power curve of anyone else), and Original Series, Original Series movies, and Enterprise were distinct by being from different time periods. TNG and DS9 weren’t so distinct.

The second three Block sets concentrated on Deep Space Nine. Game mechanics were given to TNG and DS9, in the first 6 Block sets, to make them playable as distinct factions (of course, you have the ability to not use them, and have a deck crossing over as many shows as you like).

It’s release day for the first of the next group of Block sets. This group focuses on the Mirror Universe. This first set, Crossover, concentrates on its appearances in DS9. There are 5 DS9 episodes featuring the Mirror Universe, and the two factions (the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance and the Terran Rebellion) are already represented in the game (the Terran faction usually mixed with the Terran Empire from the TOS episode Mirror, Mirror). This set capitalises on the DS9-only mechanic (so the Terrans don’t get too crazy good), and even gives each faction multiple ways to play (basically with or without Mirror Terok Nor).

The next set is intended to focus on TOS, and the third set in the block is intended to feature the Mirror Universe as it featured in Enterprise. This last is not distinct in the game yet, though there are some Backwards-Compatible cards from those episodes.

If you’re interested in picking up a somewhat intricate game, with many possible interactions, check out this unofficial rulebook (on which is based the forthcoming official rulebook).

If you’re still interested after that, check out this page for any PDF that has “starter” as part of its name. If you find someone to play it with, it’s probably best to play two starters from the same block (they’re colour-coded). And you can browse and post on the forums, particularly the Gameplay (1e) board, if you have questions or need help. The people on there are happy to help. And sometimes even experienced players have questions about old cards, so don’t worry about asking questions.

Some Microsoft Free Apps

I browsed the Windows 10 App Store when I first got Windows 10, to see what was there. I installed a few things initially, not much that I’ve kept, or kept up with.

I tried some variants of the Tower Defense type of game, nothing free really impressed me.

I keep Cut The Rope 2, but don’t play it much, I keep Happy Connect, even with the weird Chinese(?) text boxes (adverts?) that occasionally pop up. I only need to complete the last level. When I try, I get close, but haven’t figured out yet how to untangle the last few lines.

I think the ones that might have the most staying power are the Microsoft-branded apps, possibly because I’m a big sucker for achievements.

The first of these I put on was Sudoku. I found the hardest level not as challenging as some of the Sudoku puzzles I’ve faced in the newspaper. I racked up all the achievements except the last two or three, which require months of doing the Daily Challenges, which are fairly quick and don’t all need to be done on the day in question. The Daily Challenge puzzles use alternative board types: symbols, or irregular, and you generally need to complete a certain number of rows, columns, or “houses”, occasionally within a time limit.

I installed a few more of Microsoft’s Casual Games series the other day: Jigsaw, Mahjong and Minesweeper.

In all these apps, some features (mainly the Daily Challenges) require the watching of commercials, which naturally I try to not pay attention to.

I have spent a lot of time playing Minesweeper since Windows 98 at the latest. I’ve only played the Daily Challenges on this one, which have some interesting variants: set a certain number of flags in a time limit, clear the board normally in a time limit, find the hidden treasure in a board (it’s surrounded by mines), click a certain number of safe spaces without using any flags. The achievements aren’t obviously listed in the app, you have to go hunting online to see what there is, and I have no idea how to check which ones you have.

Mahjong, I remember when the Microsoft variant was called TaiPei, and threw up fortune cookie phrases when you finished a game. Again, I’ve only tried the Daily Challenges, so I don’t know if you get the fortune cookie messages in this one. The variants are, match all the pairs of golden tiles, match all the tiles that are counting down before they finish counting down, clear the board within a time limit, get a certain score within the time limit, or match a certain number of tiles within a time limit.

Last up is Jigsaw, where I’ve played more than just the Daily Challenges (attach a certain number of pieces to a section that’s been completed, “Jam” where you need to connect the piece it gives you, or the rather inventive “trap a bug in the board”.

The main Jigsaw game has two main options, regular jigsaws, or the “Jam” game mentioned earlier. I prefer the Regular type, and each puzzle has 4 difficulty levels, with different numbers of pieces. To keep the “game” element of it up, a small number of puzzles in each collection start “unlocked”, then when you complete puzzles, others in the collection will “unlock”. And then by doing the puzzles, you earn in-game currency that you can use to by other collections in the game (though quite a few are free, anyway).

Jigsaw is the best for when you may have to abandon the game any moment to chase after kids (as far as I know, and I’ve only tried it with Sudoku and Jigsaw, if you close the program, the game saves your progress).

Mahjong is the most challenging of these games (I like giving my brain a workout).

And the Achievements slowly rack up…

A New Portal Game

You wait ages for a new Portal game, and two come along at once.

It’s not that long ago that the trailers for Lego Dimensions surfaced, the game containing one Portal level, and another level available in an add-on pack.

Today, I found out about an upcoming Portal board game, which was shown off to people at GenCon.

Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game is a game for 2-4 players. There are 18 hex-ish tiles (hex, but join together like a jigsaw), which are initially arranged in a 6×3 pattern. Each player controls a team of Test Subjects, who are trying to acquire Cake. The test chambers on the Old edge are gradually recycled to the New edge, causing potential loss of Test Subjects and Cake. The idea is to end the game as the team with the most Cake on the board. The game ends either when one team loses all their Test Subjects, or all the pieces of one team’s cake goes in the incinerator.

Characters, and bits of Aperture equipment, can mess with the rules, or otherwise mess with things (Turrets will kill all Test Subjects in the same room, for example). I think the characters in particular could do most to enhance replay value.

Rules are available on the Cryptozoic site (click “Learn To Play”), and the BoardGameGeek site currently lists 5 videos about the game (the section just after Images is Videos).

Here’s one to get you started:

Sounds interesting enough that I’d like to give it a try. For Science.

An Extra Game

Tonight, Oldest was given the option of playing a game with my wife and myself. He voted for Catan, and I voted for Ticket To Ride. My wife had the deciding vote.

So we introduced Oldest to Ticket To Ride Europe. I helped him initially with choosing the routes to keep. He did surprisingly well throughout the game.

My long route fit fairly well with my two shorter routes. The France/Germany area was busiest right at the beginning of the game, so I took to saving up blue and yellow for my London-Berlin route, and yellow, white and a bit of red I needed for other portions. The colours I needed were rather reluctant to show up when I was drawing train cards.

Meanwhile, my wife started building up in the Russia/Turkey area, where I also needed to build up, and both wife and Oldest were managing to build up where they needed to go.

Wife managed to build mostly one long route, with a couple of short offshoots, getting the Longest Road card.

Oldest actually drew more Route cards, and managed to complete them all. He had a lot of short sections, so had more sections of track than everybody else.

Wife managed to use all her plastic trains.

I was the only one not to complete a route: I had all the cards I needed, but needed three more turns to build them. the route I failed to complete, was of course the Really Long One, so instead of getting me lots of points, lost me them instead.

I ended on 77 points, Oldest on 116, a close second to his mother who finished at 132 points.

The good news is that Oldest enjoyed the game, so might be convinced to play it again. The tricky part is keeping Youngest out of it all…

A Game Night

Tonight we had a game night. We haven’t had one in quite a while, and it was relatively short notice, so our guest lineup was shaken up a bit (also, family visiting from England will throw that for a bit of a loop, too).

Shortly before people came, I was trying to brush up on the rules for Captains Of Industry, which I’ve been looking forward to playing for a long time (indeed, it’s been sitting in a prominent spot for a while), but in the end it didn’t seem like the right time to introduce a game that complicated. Maybe another time.

I brought up Catan, Dominion and Ticket To Ride from the basement, and we ended up not playing any of those, either.

I talked to one of the guests about the last game I Kickstarted, whose arrival I’m looking forward to: Bomb Squad. Co-operative but seeming to avoid the problem with games like Pandemic, of one player dominating (“here, you do this, you do this, then I can do this…”).

I know two games, brought by one set of guests, were played on a table I was not at. One was a trivia one, and some answers floated from our table to theirs.

The first game I played was Firefly Clue. I’d played it once before and enjoyed it. The last time, I’d just figured out whodunnit, and that was enough to tip the game’s owner to the same information and she won.

This time, I’d pretty much concluded the What, was pretty sure on the Who, and I’d lucked into the Where on my last guess, but that was enough to tip my mother off onto the right answers, so she got to the centre square and won.

Seems like you need a bit more space on the answer sheets, to write down who asked about what, who answered about what, and who has what, to keep better track.

The next game I played was Love Letter, which I was introduced to not long ago. We played nearly two games: the first game, I was in the lead with three cubes and only needed one to go, then one player had to go and another joined, so we started scoring from scratch. The second game, then, the new player, my sister-in-law, convincingly won.

We talked about playing Templar intrigue next, but there weren’t seven people free to play it with (7-10 players). There were still enough adults in the room to play it, but kid-wrangling was still going on, so we have to save this for another time.

The last game we played with guests, The Game Of Things. One player reads the text on a card (“Things you should not teach your pet to do”, “Things that don’t last very long”, “Things you shouldn’t do on a first date”, and so on), and all the players write something that fits with what the card said. The person who read the card reads the answers, and the next player has to guess who wrote what. If they get one wrong, the next player guesses, and so on, until everyone knows who wrote what (the player reading doesn’t guess, so the handwriting doesn’t give it away).

That was a pretty funny game, particularly as it was getting late, and people were verging into getting punchy and silly. Seems a good one to have on hand to be able to pull out.

We then chatted a bit about games we liked the sound of but haven’t tried. Currently on my radar of games I’d like to try and possibly even get, are Firefly The Game, and T.I.M.E. Stories. And I liked the story behind the creation of Euphoria: Build A Better Dystopia.

It sounds like we might get Love Letter in the household at some point, too.

The last game I tried, after all our guests had gone, was one my sister (and brother-in-law, and niece) had left for my kids. My wife had played it with Oldest (I think my mother-in-law played some with them, too). It was called Loopin’ Louie. A crazed pilots flies round and round, trying to knock your chickens down. You can make him pull up when he gets close to you. Sounds like the kids enjoyed it, I played it against my wife, and it seems you might be able to learn how hard to hit i and exactly when, to make the plane come down again in exactly the right place. On the other hand, it keeps a fairly even playing field between the kids and grown-ups.

A good, fun, night.

Remember: games are good for you, but don’t eat too many at once.

Some Games In The Evening

With my family over, we decided to break out some games in the evening.

First up was Settlers Of Catan, which my wonderful wife set up, and I played with my parents, mother-in-law, and brother-in-law.

My parents didn’t really remember how to play, and I don’t think my brother-in-law had played before.

I started without a settlement on any lumber, and on 6es, 9s, a 10 and a 12.

I went second, and none of my numbers were rolled until after my second turn. I think I built a total of 4 roads throughout the entire game.

While my numbers weren’t that popular (the Number Of The Game ended up being 3), I saved up enough to upgrade, I traded for a wood to build a road. I managed to build a settlement, and upgrade, and upgrade again, very close together, was a very quick jump from 3 to 6 points.

Getting on another number helped slightly. There were moments where I was buying development cards to avoid getting robbed, and my loving family robbed me occasionally (brick and log were least forthcoming from my tiles, so at one point I’d built a road, and held back those road materials for maybe building a settlement, one of those got stolen from me).

I used a knight to unrob myself (but not rob somebody else), and thought I lucked into getting a Victory Point development card.

During the last go around the table, I had to buy 2 development cards, got another knight and another point. On my turn, I managed to build a settlement, which took me to 8 points on the board (3 Cities and 2 Settlements). I did flip the second knight, and I had been expecting to need to go round the board again, to flip another Knight. As it was, I didn’t have one, but I did have those two Victory Point cards in hand, so I had enough points to win, and put everyone else out of their misery. Or at least highlight why people usually gang up on me :)

My parents and sister and bro-in-law and niece had to go away to retire for the night, soon after that.

My wife and mother-in-law were still up for another game after that, so we played Dixit Journey.

As a 3-player game, there’s a slight rules variant: The person whose turn it is chooses one card from their hand, and the other players get to put down 2 to match the clue.

It was more difficult for the active player to choose a card that one other player  would choose but the other not. It took a while for the game to get past “both players guessing wrong” or “both players guessing right”.

I had a strong start, but the main arrangement on the scoreboard was mother-in-law first, me second, wife third. How far each of us trailed varied.

At one point, my clue was “I want to break free“, that line sung. Apparently neither of them was familiar with the song, they both guessed right nonetheless. (Looking at the Wikipedia article there, I’m not familiar with the music video.)

The last turn was mine, I knew what I wanted to do so I didn’t deal myself a card, and there had only been 2 cards left in the deck so I dealt one each to my opponents (one of them ought to have had 2).

I’d been giggling about what clue I was going to give since my previous turn.

I was only a couple of points behind my mother-in-law> Only one outcome could get me the win: she guess wrong and my wife guess right.

My clue was, “I’ve had this card since the beginning of the game, and it hasn’t fit into any categories yet!” (which was true). Apparently, my mother-in-law had at least one card that was like that, too.

Shockingly, my gamble actually paid off, and I won.

I was pleased with myself for the clue, but I was more surprised to actually win.

Don’t know about anyone else, but I had a good evening!

Some Friends And Some Games

Tonight we had some friends come over, organised rather at the last minute. One of them lives abroad and was only back for a few weeks, and this was her last weekend before going back.

As is fairly often the case when we meet this family, we played games, and as is also fairly often the case, some of them we hadn’t played before.

When playing games, often the first time you play one, it takes longer, and isn’t the most interesting or fun time that can be had playing it. Not all of these we got to play a second time.

First up was Coup. You have two cards, that can do certain things. On your turn you can choose to do one of those things, one of three other relatively safe options, or one of the special abilities on a card you don’t have. If you get caught using a card you don’t have, there are penalties.

Seems like one you need to play a few times to be familiar enough with the cards, so you can lie more easily. In this game you’re supposed to lie. A lot of us didn’t, and it probably would have been more interesting if we did. Still interesting.

The second game we played was No Thanks!. There are cards numbered from 3 to 35, 9 are removed (at random) before play. You are trying to get the lowest number of points. The top card of the deck is revealed, players decide whether they want it (take it), or pass (put a token on it). Each token is worth -1 point, which can offset high-point cards that have been passed on by other players. Of course, you have a finite number of tokens, so after you use them all, you must take the card. If you have a run of cards, then you only score for the lowest-point card in the run.

I did relatively well at this one, in the couple of rounds we played of it.

Red 7 reminded me of a very simplified game of Fluxx (or possibly a more complicated Trumpet).

The cards have two attributes: a colour and a number. There are 7 colours and 7 numbers. There’s a Canvas pile (which dictates the rules you’re currently playing by), and your own “palette”.

The overriding rule is that you must be winning at the end of your turn. The Canvas pile dictates what constitutes “winning”, and your Palette is what you’re judged on.

For example, the Red rule is that you must have the highest card. Looking in all the players Palettes, the winner would be who has the highest number (7 beats 1), and if multiple people have that number, you go by “suit”: Red is the best, Violet is the worst. And rainbow order in between.If you can’t win at the end of your turn, you’re out. But he round goes pretty quick, anyway.

Then we played Harbour, which I brought to the table (figuratively, not literally: I got Oldest to fetch it to show people, then my wife kindly brought it to the right table when it was time to play, ongoing leg pain and all that).

This one was a bit more complicated, particularly for peoples’ first times, and I did play, so I tried to be helpful with suggesting things that would be good for the newbies to do (which stepped on the toes, a bit, of one of the players, because I suggested to other people moves that she was considering for herself).

I still won, quite convincingly: I saved up so I could sell all the resources for $5 each, and the Library appeared early on, which lets you buy twice in a turn. I used it to buy a 9-pointer and 11-pointer (similarly costed), and later used it to buy two 10-pointers. As those points were at the upper end of the game, and other people only had two buildings each, they declined to take their final turns (foregone conclusion, and all that), and declared me the winner.

After some hanging out, the last game of the night was Love Letter.

This is an absurdly simple one to set up: deal each player one card, and set one card aside to retain an element of doubt.

After having to lie in Coup, you absolutely must tell the truth in Love Letter.

Each turn, you draw one card, and play one of the two cards you are then holding. There are ways to get other people knocked out of the round (the rounds are quick, and the player is back in for the next round). The winner of each round is either the last one still in t he round, and if there’s more than one at that point, then the one with the highest-scoring card in hand. The winner of the game, is the first one to win four rounds.

This game almost played itself, but not quite, sometimes due to luck, sometimes to deduction. (For an example of a game that really plays itself, think of Snakes and Ladders. The humans are only needed for rolling the dice, in that one.) Had fun playing Love Letter.

Of the games I hadn’t played before, I think I liked Love Letter best, followed by Red 7, Coup then No Thanks. I think more plays could improve my enjoyment of Coup, I’m not sure No Thanks would benefit the same way from that method.

I had fun playing hte games, and a great evening visiting with friends.