Monday, 2 September 2013

boardgaming in photos: do not unto others...

11 Aug 2013. Playing Android: Netrunner with Michelle in Kota Kinabalu using the mahjong table at my parents' home. By now Michelle has played this with me 7 times. I have been hoping that we can make this our next spouse game, but unfortunately she doesn't like it, so it's not going to work out. I guess I should be thankful that she has humoured me for 7 games. I should not foist on her a game she does not enjoy. She finds the game rather stressful. She plays the corporation, and she keeps complaining that when I make a run, I don't get penalised even when the run fails. I try to console her that when I spend so many clicks (actions) and money and don't gain anything from the run, that's considered a big loss to me. We did play one important rule wrong for quite many games, which benefited me (the runner, i.e. hacker). When the runner is unable to or does not wish to spend money to interact with a piece of ice (anti-intrusion software), the subroutines on it do execute and thus harm the runner. Earlier on I thought they have no effect if the runner is unable to interact with the ice. Actually interacting with the ice is only the minimum requirement for the runner to break subroutines. The runners inability to interact with the ice doesn't stop the ice's subroutines from executing. I had inadvertently taken advantage of Michelle.

Michelle finds Android: Netrunner too confrontational. The games that worked for us as spouse games are usually VP-scoring games, e.g. Race for the Galaxy, games from the Ticket to Ride series (we don't play proactive blocking), Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper, Carcassonne, Agricola, Through the Ages. Games that I tried but failed include Innovation and Blue Moon. They have elements of robbing something from your opponent or attacking your opponent. Michelle doesn't like Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation either. Even the title has "confrontation"! Now I'm thinking of trying to get 7 Wonders to work as our next spouse game. I have played the 2-player variant with her before and she doesn't dislike it. I didn't pursue it further because I felt 7 Wonders is best played with 4 or 5 players. That's coming from the perspective of the game. If I come from the player count perspective, among games that can be played by two players, 7 Wonders is not a bad choice. Let's see if this works out.

Coming back to Android: Netrunner, after playing 9 games in total, I still feel I am barely scratching the surface. I have played all three runner factions. I have played against three of the four corporations - Jinteki, Weyland Consortium and Haas-Bioroid. I have no exposure to NBN. My favourite runner faction for now is the Shaper, but not because of what it's like but because I'm not yet comfortable with the other factions. The Anarchists are a bit too extreme for me. I have won before, but at the cost of taking brain damage (I mean in game terms). The Criminal faction seems a bit difficult to play well, but I like the Inside Job card (bypass first ice protecting server). I've just started tinkering with deck-building, adding Inside Job and one other card type from the Criminal deck to the Shaper deck. I need to find an opponent. I know there are some veteran players in Kuala Lumpur. I'm still thinking whether to go swim with the sharks or to find an opponent among my more regular kaki (fellow players). I have bought two of the expansions now, What Lies Ahead and Future Proof, and intend to get a third, Humanity's Shadow. That's no small investment after adding up the costs.

I am at the stage where I feel Android: Netrunner should be a 20-30 minute game, i.e. can be played quite briskly. Once you are familiar with the cards, you spend very little time reading and digesting the text. One particular game lasted less than 10 minutes for me. That was due to pure bad luck. I was the runner and I had no icebreaker cards at all in the early game. No icebreakers means no running. Michelle completed her agendas very quickly.

It has been quite a while since I took such photos of Race for the Galaxy. Nowadays Michelle and I don't play this game anywhere near as much as when it was our main spouse game. It was fun to bring it out again. There is always angst about which cards to use and which to sacrifice, hoping to be able to create effective combos, hoping to draw the right cards. When things work out, it feels wonderful.

In this particular game I focused on Development. By game end when I picked a Develop action, I would get a discount of 5, and I would draw a card, and after doing the Development I would draw yet another card. I would be gaining cards even if I developed a 6-cost card! I managed to play four 6-cost Development cards. I still had three in hand and could not play them before the game ended.

23 Aug 2013. I played Urban Sprawl with Allen and Wai Yan at OTK. OTK had a theme night focusing on GMT games. Most of GMT's games are wargames, so it's not exactly easy to find games that are suitable for 3 or more players, and do not take a long time to play. Friday night gaming starting at 9pm is not exactly the right occasion for Here I Stand.

I have played Urban Sprawl once before, with Allen. Not a big fan, but I don't mind playing. I think most decisions are quite tactical, because you have to see what buildings are available on the board to be built, and you try to make the best of your turn. Your actions are mostly driven by what cards come up. There are longer-term strategic elements that you need to think of, e.g. having majority in the four building colours, having majority in rows and columns, and having the most vocation tiles. However I find that most of the time you have to build the building that works best for you on your turn. You turn to the strategic considerations when all building options are so-so, or poor.

I did quite well in the early game. There were many turns when I used up my hand of cards, leaving me with less flexibility for my next turn. However on those turns there were just very good opportunities that I couldn't pass up, even if it meant I had to use up my cards to construct those buildings. Towards late game things started going downhill for me. The game's catch-up mechanism came into play. Allen was the trailing player, and gained the contractor role which allowed him to demolish and build over other players' buildings, and at the same time prevented others from doing the same to him using Urban Renewal cards. Quite a few of my buildings were torn down. I tried to compete with Wai Yan in collecting vocation tiles, which were used to fight for the mayor role. I was no match for her. The roles that came into play at mid game were very useful, and she managed to dominate quite a few of them. At game end, I had not a single role, while Wai Yan and Allen had three each. Wai Yan's score overtook mine and shot ahead, because of the end-game bonuses from the roles. This photo shows our final score, Wai Yan was white at 188, I was green at 151, Allen was pink at 121. This was Wai Yan's first game!

24 Aug 2013. Shee Yun (8) asked to play Lord of the Rings, and requested to be Frodo. We have played once before. We still played at the easiest difficulty level (Sauron at 15). She had her own ideas about how to play, so I let her make her own decisions, only reminding her of her options now and then. She liked to draw cards and didn't use her cards much. Her hands are small and she couldn't hold too many cards at the same time, so she had to hold some and leave some face-down on the table. Because of this, she sometimes forgot what cards she had. In a few precarious situations I had to remind her to check her cards and not just keep drawing more, and indeed she actually already had the right cards that could save us. Eventually we won the game quite comfortably. I think it's time to move on to a higher difficulty level.

I made my daughter Chen Rui (6) cry when we played Mamma Mia. This is a game about making pizza. Players take turns contributing cards (representing various ingredients) to a pool, and when you are confident that the pool has enough ingredients for a specific pizza recipe in your hand, you play that recipe card, which will potentially use up many ingredients that are already in the pool, and thus possibly deny your opponents from completing their recipes. In our game, Chen Rui was quite conservative and kept counting ingredients carefully before committing any of her recipes. Shee Yun (8) and I on the other hand were more willing to take risks, knowing that even if we were short of ingredients when it came to pizza-making time, we could add ingredients from our hands. There were quite a few times that I played my recipe card just before Chen Rui was about to play hers. That completely spoiled her plans. A few more times of this happening, and she started to frown and pout. We told her that's poor sportsmanship. Eventually we did finish the game, but she wasn't happy.

Later when my wife Michelle and I played Race for the Galaxy, Michelle heard Chen Rui crying quietly upstairs, and went upstairs to investigate. Poor girl. She was so upset that she couldn't stop crying. Michelle had to console her for some time before she finally calmed down. She complained that I kept using up her ingredients. I guess having me being her right-hand player was tough. I didn't mean to bully her or to ruin her plans. I just did my best when playing, which I believe is the right way, even when playing with children. I don't believe it's right to intentionally let your children win all the time. Chen Rui is lovable. She is true to herself. She did not get angry and she did not leave the game. She was just upset that things didn't work out the way she wanted them to.


Anonymous said...

Maybe You should have let Chen Rui make a real pizza after the game!

Greg Aleknevicus said...

Some lessons are painful, but it's a mistake to avoid teaching them. I think you did your daughter a great service. Hopefully, she will be better equipped to handle situations that do not go exactly as she wishes. Hopefully, it will make her a better person.

Chen J. Y. said...

Hmmm, I wonder if it is at all possible to be so good at a game like Mamma Mia (or indeed, any other game) - that one can win or loss at will, or even lose by a narrow margin on purpose, without all the other people at the table discovering your manipulation. It seems like a challenge in itself! Otherwise, maybe cooperative games like Forbidden Island, Castle Panic, Ghost Stories, etc, are easier to play with family?

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

It's possible to intentionally play poorly, and also possible to do it in such a way that others do not know you are doing it. However I don't think it's the right thing to do. Sometimes I do intentionally (and subtly) lose some quick and simple games to my daughters (e.g. Halli Galli) after they've had a long losing streak, to cheer them up a little. With slightly more involved games, I don't feel comfortable making obviously sub-optimal moves to intentionally do poorly. E.g. my older daughter very rarely beats me at Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation and For The Win, but when she does, she does it on her own. The only "help" I give is being complacent or underestimating her.

Chen J. Y. said...

Yes, I think you are doing it the right way. If it is any consolation, many people (including me) have problems playing with family. Another example: I assume your family too have better experiences with such cooperative games?

Domo Kete said...

We also try to play games without confrontation. 7 Wonders is an excellent choice! I also like to try and adjust existing games to suit our play style. A variant we use for 7 Wonders is

Hiew Chok Sien 邱卓成 said...

Thank you for sharing this 7 Wonders 2P variant. This may come in handy. :-)