Monday, 30 March 2015

boardgaming in photos: Ubongo, Kakerlaken Poker, Pandemic, Medici

14 Mar 2015. Playing Ubongo with the whole family. In this round Chen Rui (8) could not complete her puzzle when time ran out on the hourglass. We now all play the normal difficulty side of the puzzle boards, i.e. four puzzle pieces compared to three at the easy difficulty level.

Shee Yun (10) came to help, even though time had run out and Chen Rui would not be able to collect any gems anyway. I often do this too. I just can't rest without solving the puzzle. Doesn't matter that I won't be collecting any gem. I just want the satisfaction of being able to solve the puzzle.

There are six variants to every puzzle in Ubongo. The combination of puzzle pieces is different in each variant, but in all variants it is possible to combine the pieces in a way that fits the shape on the puzzle board precisely. I wonder how the designer came up with the outline shapes and the six variants. Also how to decide what the available puzzle pieces should be. This can't be all done by hand right? He would need some computer program I guess? How would that work? What's the algorithm? The more I think about it, the more interesting it is.

Kakerlaken Poker (Cockroach Poker), a lying game. The basic idea is you hand a card to an opponent face-down, and you state what it is (fly, scorpion, toad etc). You opponent needs to decide whether you are lying. With three players, the number of cards is too high to be easily held in two hands. We needed these card racks from 10 Days in Asia. Chong Sean taught me this technique.

I like the artwork. If I'm not mistaken every card is unique. Every rat card is different. Some are cuter than others.

This was the first time I taught the children Pandemic. They had played Pandemic: The Cure before, and liked it. So I promised them I'd teach them the original boardgame. We played the easy difficulty level, and almost managed to win. We eventually lost due to too many outbreaks. I think we could have won if I had given them more instructions. However I wanted to let them make their own decisions as much as possible. Let them make mistakes and learn from their mistakes. Losing and learning from it is better than winning and learning nothing.

Chen Rui always wants to play the Medic character, be it in Pandemic: The Cure or Pandemic. Perhaps she thinks he's awesome because he treats sick people most efficiently.

20 Mar 2015. This is Medici, one of the games in Reiner Knizia's auction trilogy, the other two being Ra and Modern Art. I own all three. It has been quite a while since I last played Medici. In this particular game that we played, I had one incredibly lucky first round. The other players had all bought goods earlier than me (which sometimes can be a bad thing), and they all had at least three goods on their ships (max is 5). Then it came to my turn to draw goods cards. The first card I drew was a 5, i.e. the largest possible value for normal goods. I decided to draw a second card, and it turned out to be the 10-value gold card! Needless to say, I went on to draw a third card, which would prevent everyone else from buying this batch because I was the only one with enough space to buy it. And that third card turned out to be a valuable 5 too! I only spent $1 to buy this 20-value batch. Later in the round, I was the last player remaining with space on my ship. There would be no more auctions at this stage. I must draw cards from the deck to directly fill my ship. I couldn't decide what cards to go for, but the consolation was they were free. So in this first round (of three), I had spent only $1. This is not normal at all, especially since I also won the $30 reward for most valuable ship. They rest said I was bullying newbies. I said it was just unbelievably good luck. I don't usually do so well in this game.

My copy is the Rio Grande first edition, and the graphic design is problematic from a usability standpoint. The score track shows only odd numbers, which is, of course, odd. The multiples of 10 are not highlighted. On the cards, each type of good has a specific colour for its border, e.g. cloth cards have a red border. However on the game board you need to identify the good pyramid by the drawing and not by colour. The cloth pyramid (rightmost) doesn't have any red border or red highlight to help you identify it. The artwork itself is actually okay. But usability design is...

Medici is a very 90's design. Not many rules, but there's a fair bit of strategy. Not much theme or story. It's trim and straight-to-the-point. Some may find that dry. You can say it's a pure game with no frivolous appendages. It doesn't try to use rules or mechanisms to tell you some story. Whatever story you derive from it (like my $1 for a fortune story here) is born from players playing and not from game rules telling it to you. I think gamers tend to play theme-heavy games or complex Eurogames. Bringing out a clean, crisp classic once in a while is a nice change of pace and is refreshing.

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