Saturday, 26 March 2016

boardgaming in photos: play and work

It feels like it has been a long time since I have done a photos post like this. I checked the photos I have been accumulating. The oldest one was from almost two months ago. Most of my blog posts are about new games I play. Photos posts are for the non-new games I play. Not necessarily old games, just games that I have already written about before in my normal blog posts. Photos posts are one form of me sharing my personal journey.

28 Jan 2016. Playing Ticket To Ride with Eva and Teck Seng. Teck Seng wanted to try the game, so I brought it to the office. We all started in the north eastern corner, so it was quite tense. All of us needed to go to Montreal.

29 Jan 2016. Ruby and Benz. In January when a local newspaper interviewed me, they asked me to recommend some games that can be played with children. One of the games I recommended was Pandemic. After my colleagues read the article, they were keen to try it. So I brought it to the office. No, don't ask me whether we do work in the office. But yes, they loved the game.

4 Feb 2016. Han was in town before Chinese New Year, and we gathered at Allen's place to play some games. Samurai is one of Allen's favourite games, and he's very good at it. I had thought this time I would finally beat him, but he won yet again. This is an older version of Samurai. The latest version has different artwork and components. I have seen the photos but not a physical copy. I think I prefer the older version, especially the black pieces, which are classy. I wonder whether Allen will buy a copy of the latest version. He already has two copies of the older version, one copy for playing and the other for collection / backup / cultural heritage.

We were done with Honshu (main island) and were now fighting over Kyushu and Shikoku.

13 Feb 2016. During the Chinese New Year holidays I taught my mum Red7. The kids had played the game before.

My mum looked clueless, but when we played, she beat all of us. There's a Cantonese saying which is roughly equivalent to "wolf in sheep's clothing" - pretending to be a pig in order to devour the tiger.

21 Feb 2016. I held an open house during Chinese New Year and invited colleagues and friends over to play boardgames. Carcassonne was popular. Those who tried it liked it so much that later on when we ran out of tables to play on, they played on the floor.

Halli Galli attracted many spectators and got the contestants really pumped up, as you can see in this photo. Kit Loong (left) got so excited that he broke the plastic stool he was sitting on. Thankfully he was not injured.

Loopin' Louie worked well for young and old, the youngest being Kwe Long's 2-year-old son. My colleagues later asked me to bring this to the office.

Risk Express is one of Reiner Knizia's lesser known games. I had not played it for quite some time. I only thought about it when I was preparing for the open house, because it's a game suitable for people new to boardgames.

This was my homemade version of Ca$h N Gun$. My wife Michelle does not allow gun-like toys at home, so I did not make toy guns. Thus the finger guns.

Zombie Tower 3D. I just checked their Kickstarter page, and the next edition has been funded successfully. Congratulations!

26 Feb 2016. Edwin, Xiao Zhu, Eva. Some of my colleagues like cooperative games, so I recommended Samurai Spirit. I said this was very difficult to beat, much more so than Pandemic. They already struggled with Pandemic, and had asked me to play with them again to teach them the strategies. I told them that they needed to be very calculative and not waste any action or any opportunities for optimisation. I was rather OCD with the components - cards must be laid out with the right side up, and must be discarded with the right side up. I kept fixing their errors for them. They probably think I'm crazy.

I taught my colleagues Samurai Spirit at the normal difficulty level, and not the easy level. The designer recommended so. Only if you keep losing at normal level do you then step down to the easy level. As I played with my colleagues, I explained the various tactical considerations behind the actions they take. We played carefully and meticulously. Part of doing well in Samurai Spirit is remembering the cards you've seen. With more people playing, we had more brains to help remember stuff. We ended up winning without too much trouble. I was surprised. This was supposed to be a difficult game. Now it felt like I had exaggerated to them about how tough the game was. When was the promised challenge?!

I thought about whether it was the right thing to do when I explained to them the intricacies of decision making in Samurai Sword. I learned many of these from scratch when I explored the game myself. To me, this exploration and learning were part of the fun. By directly teaching them these lessons I had learnt, I was denying them the joy of discovering these tricks themselves. Ultimately, I think what I did was fine, because my colleagues were not hardcore boardgamers like me. They were casual players and they just wanted to play and have fun. They were not the type to think very deeply about game mechanisms. By guiding them, I helped them speed up their learning process so that they could play more effectively and be competitive.

They later played the game by themselves, and lost. I was happy. Not because they lost, but because the difficulty I had promised earlier had finally been delivered.

4 Mar 2016. Ruby, Benz, Edmond, Xiao Zhu, Edwin. Ruby said she was interested in games with a traitor mechanism, like Templar Intrigue which I had taught them before. So I taught them Saboteur. We played 2 rounds (normally a complete game has 3 rounds). The first round was very exciting. We had 7 players, but it felt like we had 5 saboteurs! Normally in a 7 player game there should be either 2 or 3 saboteurs. You won't know for sure till the round ends. We later realised that Benz had incorrectly identified his loyal card as a saboteur card; and Edmond had misunderstood what a good dwarf should be doing, and had been doing all the wrong things. When I explained the rules earlier, I jokingly said that it was easy to identify the saboteur card because the saboteur had an evil face (in addition to the card having the text "Saboteur"). Benz had drawn a loyal card, but he thought the loyal dwarf's face looked evil, so he thought he was a saboteur. I guess I should not have made my game teaching too colourful.

I was a saboteur in this round, and I was rather confused because it seemed I had too many accomplices. It was hilarious when we found out why. It was also very exciting because being saboteur was naturally nerve-wracking. You need to pretend to be good, yet you must find ways to undermine the team's effort. For the second round, we played correctly, but it turned out to be rather anti-climactic. There were only two saboteurs this time, and the loyal dwarves managed to dig a path all the way to the gold mine very quickly, ending the round. The saboteurs didn't have time to do much damage. No accusations flying around, no nasty cards played on one another. Victory for the loyal dwarves felt boring. It was crazy. Maybe the saboteurs should have been more proactive, or the loyal dwarves should have been more aggressive in competing to be the one to find the gold mine.

This was the early part of the first round, when everyone behaved like loyal dwarves, steadfastly digging the tunnel towards the three possible locations of the gold mine.

This was near the end of the round. If I remember correctly the real gold mine was the card at the top. I had seen it using a special ability card. I was a traitor, and I had lied that the gold mine was the bottom card. At a crucial moment, I played a tunnel card that prevented the loyal dwarves from advancing to the bottom card. Playing such a card meant announcing to the world that I was a saboteur, but I was fine with that because my intention was to mislead. I wanted to lure the loyal dwarves into wasting their cards by hindering me, by undoing the damage I had done, and by pushing towards the wrong goal.

6 Mar 2016. For elder daughter Shee Yun's 11th birthday, we organised a small party, getting her to invite some friends over to play, which of course included playing boardgames. Escape was a hit with the children. After lunch, they were so eager to play that they couldn't wait for the table to be cleared. They sat down on the floor to play.

Qwirkle works well with children. The rules are not complex, and it is language independent. There is some strategy too.

The result of this game surprised me. It was younger daughter Chen Rui (right) who won. She was the youngest among the children, since the other children were mostly her elder sister's classmates. Shee Yun and Chen Rui have played many boardgames with me, so they have an advantage over their friends. However I had expected Shee Yun to win because she had been leading throughout most of the game. Chen Rui had kept one important tile and waited for the best moment to play it. She did it just before the game ended, and scored big. That catapulted her to the front to win the game. I had not expected this from my innocent little precious princess. I had underestimated her.

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