Thursday, 18 June 2015

Taipei meet-up and Witch House

I visited Taiwan in early June. It was a family vacation, and I took the opportunity to meet up with my old friends. My boardgame journey started in Taiwan about 11 years ago. It was then that I got hooked on Eurogames. I played frequently with my colleagues at work. It had been a long time since I last met them. Many things are different now - we have kids now, we are working in different fields - but when we got together again, the camaraderie was just like 11 years ago. I felt 11 years younger. I should to go Taipei more.

We met up for dinner, but dinner was definitely not the only thing on our minds. We brought games. Yes, I brought games all the way from Malaysia to Taiwan, which is perfectly normal. After dinner, we continued our gathering at Cher's office, which was near the restaurant. We played games in the conference room, which reminded me of how we used to play Carcassonne in the Director's office during lunch break 11 years ago (the Director was usually not in the office).

I taught them Templar Intrigue, a secret identity team game. I've written about it before here in case you do not know the game. We had much fun, and most of it was not because of the game, but because of the people - the spontaneous jokes, and how we simply click. I explained the game using the characters in the Hong Kong movie Infernal Affairs (which was remade in English as The Departed). In one game Rick said he would prove that he was Tony Leung (the undercover cop) by giving Carina Lau a phone call straight-away. Each game of Templar Intrigue requires a precise procedure to be followed to allow some players to know the identities of some other players. One of the steps requires everyone to close his eyes, and then the Templar Grandmaster (the mafia boss) and the Templar Archivist (the mafia's mole in the police force) open their eyes to identify each other. In one of our games, when it was time for these two characters to open their eyes, we had three players opening their eyes instead! That led to much laughter. It was Michelle who made the mistake. She was a Templar Traitor (undercover cop in the mafia) and she thought when I announced "mole" I meant her too. Then there was another game in which only one person opened his eyes at this phase. Rick was the Templar Grandmaster and when he couldn't see anyone else with eyes open, he asked for a stop. I was the moderator so I checked everyone's cards, until I realised I was the Templar Archivist who was supposed to have opened his eyes. I was too absorbed with being moderator that I had forgotten my own character.

Templar Intrigue was a great choice. It is simple, it supports up to 10 players, and it's a riot to play.

I'm the king of the kids.

This is Tony Leung, a.k.a. Templar Traitor, a.k.a. undercover cop in the mafia.

Jessy, Crystal, Cher and I playing Carcassonne. This was one of our favourite games from 11 years ago. Others include Ra and Ticket to Ride.

We visited Witch House, where my boardgame hobby began. When Michelle and I lived in Taipei, we were regular customers. After 11 years, the place still felt the same. The main difference was we were now bringing along our children and not coming as a couple. The game in this photo is BANG!. I didn't do any preparation before the visit, since I didn't know what games were available at Witch House now. I decided we'd just play games I'd played before or simple games. Surprisingly we managed to spend about 3 hours there, which was longer than I had expected, given my lack of preparation.

This is the dice game Pickomino which I own.

Talk about horrible luck. It was my turn. On my first roll I picked two 5's, and on my second roll I picked three worms (which were 5pts each). I had 25pts locked (the row of dice at the bottom) and three more dice to roll, which was a very good position to be in. I just needed to roll 1's to 4's to further increase my point value. And what did I roll? 5's and worms! I failed my turn, and instead of claiming a tile I had to lose one.


This is That's Life!, by the formidable duo Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling. The rules are deceptively simple, but there is some clever strategy. It looks like a race game, since you roll a die to move your pawns from starting line to finishing line. However the order of arrival has nothing to do with scoring. Instead you score based on tiles you collect during the game. When your pawn leaves a tile, if it is the last pawn to do so, you must claim that tile. This means the race track is constantly changing, getting shortened whenever a tile is claimed. Some tiles are worth points, some are worth negative points. Some are Good Luck tiles, which convert negative point tiles to positive point tiles.

The unpainted cylindrical pawns are neutral pawns called guards. They are initially placed on the Good Luck tiles and the high valued positive point tiles. On your turn, you may move a guard if there is another player pawn on the same tile as the guard. For example if your pawn and a guard shares a Good Luck tile, you'd want to move the guard away first, so that when your own pawn leaves, you get to claim the tile. Similarly, if another player's pawn shares a bad tile with a guard, you'd want to move the guard away to force your opponent to pick up the bad tile later.

My tiles at game end. The three Good Luck tiles on the left convert those three negative point tiles to positive point tiles.

The night before I left Taipei, Cher and Crystal stopped by bringing some gifts. I took the opportunity to teach them Love Letter.

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