Sunday, 26 August 2007

session 25 aug 2007

Chee Seng came for a 2-player session yesterday. We played On the Underground, Taluva (twice) and Battle Line (3 times). All were new to him. On the Underground was new to me, a recent purchase on my business trip ito Manila.

On the Underground is, of course, about building the London underground network. It was a could-not-resist-temptation-to-buy-and- company-is-giving-me-allowance-anyway semi-impulse buy. It turned out to be better than I imagined. However I find that the scoring mechanism is basically many many small scoring steps, which can become rather repetitive. Each turn seems to be quite tactical in nature, in that you are trying to build your tracks so that the passenger will take your lines. Well, maybe that's just because we are new and do not see the longer-term strategy yet. I do see a little long-term strategy aspect to it, in that you should build a good network and not just try to score quick points. But overall, at least from my first play of it, the game seems more tactical than strategic. Perhaps I need to play more before I make a conclusion. Our end score was really close - me: 184, Chee Seng: 181.

Me and Chee Seng, playing On the Underground for the first time.

Underground map of London. Michelle used to live in Elephant & Castle (lower centre of the photo). That guy on the right with the big head, that's the passenger.

End of the game. Londoners may complain that this is totally inaccurate.

We were also very close in the next few games we played, both Taluva and Battle Line. That's good. That makes the games very exciting.

Chee Seng's first time playing Taluva.


Chee Seng enjoyed Battle Lines a lot. I home-made it using cheap playing cards and black and red permanent markers (to hand draw the 5th and 6th suits of cards - red circle and black square). Battle Line is a 2-player card game by Reiner Knizia. There are 9 stones representing the battle line, and players take turns to play cards on their side of the battle line, with a max of 3 cards that can be played on each side of one stone in the battle line. The strength of the set of cards played on each side of the stone is determined by something similar to poker - straight flush (同花顺) beats 3 of a kind (碰) beats same suit (同花) beats straight (蛇). To win the game, you either win 5 stones, or you win 3 adjacent stones. What makes Battle Line so much fun is the tension, bluffing and gambling element. There are tough decisions to make about which cards to play and where to play them, and also what type of set to try to make. Do you try to make 3 of a kind, or a straight flush. Sometimes you have two cards out of three which can form a straight flush, but do you want to play it, hoping to get the 3rd card later? If you don't get the 3rd card later, you may end up with just a same suit, or a straight, or maybe even nothing. There is some luck element in the game, but the fun and tension more than makes up for it.

Sometimes some people complain about games where when players with equally good skills play it, it is luck that determines the winner. I think this is an absurd complaint. When a game needs a lot of skills to play well, then that itself already makes the game fun, especially when you are playing with opponents who are also skillful like yourself. One should only complain if winning is determined only by luck, or when there is so much luck that skill doesn't matter much. Actually, if a game is great fun for you, then who cares whether the winning is due to luck or not. Look at all those silly drinking games.

No, I don't drink.

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