Monday, April 22, 2002

Gathering report, part I

So, I just got back from a great 9 days of gaming at the Gathering of
Friends in Columbus, Ohio. I played a total of 91 games, 64 of which
were different, 49 of which were new to me, with a total of 105
different people. I mentioned the games that were the biggest hits in
my note from yesterday, and I'll comment on
those first.

color=f8f0ff>Puerto Rico

This highly anticipated and hyped title pretty much lived up to the
expectation. There's a ton of descriptions of play, so I'll skip
that. Overall, the game is engaging and seems to lend itself to a
wide variety of strategies and some clever tactics. There's also a
nice brinkmanship aspect where players try to put off production as
long as possible to avoid helping others. Of course, eventually
someone decides it helps them more than others.

I only got to play twice at the Gathering, in large part because there
were so many other things to play, but in each game, different
strategies succeeeded, and while some clearly work well (the Hospice
strategy and the Quarry strategy), none yet seem to be "the strategy".


This was the surprise hit of the event for me. This game plays in
under half an hour, seems likely to scale well from two players to
six, and is a lot of fun. I'm not really sure how much skill or
strategy there is, and there may not be much, but it's a blast, and
tied for most played game of the Gathering (tied with href="">

Sadly, Funagain was out of stock by the time I (and many others)
discovered it. I really thought I wouldn't like it since train games
don't usually do much for me, but this was not like most train games.
As in other train games, you are trying to connect up multiple cities
with train track. Unlike other train games, that's it. That's the
whole goal of the game, and to be the fastest to do it. Good quick


I love auction games, and when I was told this game was all auctions,
I was already favorably disposed to like it. Despite playing with a
substantial rule misinterpretation the first time, it was great fun.

The game is, in fact, all auctions all the time, with several nice
twists. Some auctions give you victory points, while others give you
more money for other auctions. Others give you variable points or
other special abilities. Most important, winning an auction earns you
a right to bid in that category in the next round. Those who win no
auctions in a category are locked out after the first set of
auctions. Depending on the number of players, each player is expected
to win 3 to 6 auctions in that first critical round, possibly more
than once in each of the 6 categories.

The game play is reasonably quick and seems well balanced (once we got
the rules right). A further nice twist is that each of the two boards
is double sided allowing for four different variations on the game.


This new Kramer & Kiesling game is altogether different from most
of their work I'm familiar with. It's essentially a pure abstract
game of 3-dimensional geometry. Each player is placing identical
(oddly shaped) blocks in their color and a "neutral" color, trying to
conceal their color while moving the "chieftan" around the pueblo such
that he will see your opponents blocks, causing them to score negative

This description doesn't really do it justice, but the result is a
pleasing abstract strategy and puzzle game. The game comes with
several variants, only one of which I've played so far. The game is
beatuiful and surprisingly clever for how simple it is.

color=f8f0ff>All Games Played

I'll write in a little more detail about other games soon, maybe even
this evening, but I figured I'd include my complete list of games
played at the Gathering:

Five times: TransAmerica, Knockabout

Four times: Alles im Eimer

Three times: How Ruck!, Pueblo

Two times: Celebrities, Clash of the Gladiators, Code 777, Crokinole,
Dschunke, Haste Worte?, Hive, M, Pizarro, Pounce, Puerto Rico,

Only once: Africa, Bamboleo, Basari, Beasti Boys, Cairo, Call my
Bluff, Can't Stop, Catchphrase, Cocotaki, Die Sieben Weisen, Dog's
Live, Dvonn, Elchfest, Entdecker, Euphrat & Tigris, Frisch Fish,
Gold Connection, Goldland, Guesstures, Hands Up, Hit the Deck,
Industrial Waste, Kupferkessel, Lumberjack, Maginor, Munchausen, Ohne
Furcht und Adel, Oodles, Password, Pig Pong, Piratenbilliard,
Pyramiden Der Jaguar, Quacksalbe, Ra, Really Nasty Horse Racing Game,
SpinBall, Tabula Rasa, Wanted Whosit?, Zahltag, ZappZerapp and a
number of prototypes.

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