Friday, 13 March 2015

birthday outing

For elder daughter Shee Yun's 10th birthday, I organised an outing to Meeples Cafe. I asked her to invite some friends along, but unfortunately most could not make it. She brought along one friend - Joey. That's okay, we could do different types of games with a smaller group. Other than the games in the photos below, we also played Incan Gold, Cloud 9, Samurai Spirit and Pack & Stack. All these games must be quite a fresh experience for Joey, as the games she is familiar with are mass market games like Uno and Monopoly.

Front: Joey, Shee Yun (10). Back: Chen Rui (8).

This is Pick-a-Pig, a real-time game. Everyone starts with one card, but you don't look at it yet. All other cards are placed on the table like in this photo. When the whistle blows, you flip your card face-up, and try to find a pig from the central display which is exactly the same as yours, or only differs by one feature (e.g. not wearing sunglasses, or holding a popcorn bucket). When you claim a card, you place it atop your stack, which means the topmost pig of your stack of cards will gradually change. The game keeps going until one player is not able to find any valid pig to add to his stack, and he declares the end. Everyone counts his cards, and whoever has the most wins. However before counting score you check one another's stacks for mistakes. Any mistakes made means 0 points. In our first game, 4 out of 5 of us made mistakes!

This is BANG!, a well-known bestseller, classic and evergreen in the boardgame hobby. I think this was my first time playing it, although I have read about it before. It is a secret identity game. Other than the sheriff, everyone else's identities are kept secret until he is killed or till game end. Some of these players are deputies, some are outlaws, and there is always one renegade. The sheriff and his deputies want to kill all outlaws and the renegade. The outlaws are not a team and don't mind killing one another, but they are an alliance of convenience because they have the same objective - to kill the sheriff. The renegade's objective is most interesting - he needs to be the last man standing. He wants the law and the outlaws to beat each other up, eventually leaving him to kill off the survivors. He can't let the sheriff die too early, because the outlaws would win. He can't let the outlaws get wiped out too early either, because it would be hard for him to face the sheriff's team all by himself.

I've always thought BANG! was a very simple game, but when I read the rules, I found that there was quite a fair bit of details to go through before you can start a game, because there are many card powers you need to know. None of them are very complex or hard to remember once you see them in action, but you do need to brief everyone before playing your first game.

We were two adults and three children, and in both games that we played, the adults were killed early, leaving the kids to fight among themselves. I guess we the adults were perceived as the greatest threats, and were thus on the high priority hit list. In both games the sheriff and deputy team won. That might be partly because the outlaws were reluctant to attack the sheriff for fear of revealing their identities too soon.

There is definitely some luck in this game - sometimes you just don't draw very useful cards, or sometimes your opponents keep drawing the good ones. If you are unlucky, you can get killed within the first two rounds. However the game is not just about the cards you draw. It is also very much about the hidden identity aspect and how you make use of that. Even if you draw very good cards, you may not know what to do with them when you don't know yet who is friend or foe. If you draw bad cards, you can still persuade others not to shoot you, or even better, convince them to shoot someone else. Naturally, as the game progresses and people get clearer ideas about who is who, it can come down to who draws the right cards to kill his opponents first. The game is smooth, quick and engaging, so a bit of luck is not an issue.

An outlaw card on the left, and the renegade card on the right.

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