Sand Castles and Sea Breezes

by April-Lyn Caouette

Strangly, I could smell pre-rain ozone in the air as I made my way towards our weekly Wednesday night games meetup at the family restaurant by the sea. But there wasn’t a cloud in sight or any hint of rain in the forecast. The breeze was blowing in from the ocean, and the marine haze was thin enough that I could see the Channel Islands in the distance as I sat at the off-ramp traffic light. The sunset was beautiful, the palm trees were swaying, and when I left my car I could smell salt in the air. Just another night in Southern California.

It was a banner night for me: I won all but one game I played, for a total of four wins. Granted, two of the games were cooperative and one of them was largely luck based, but I’ll take what I can get!

As people were trickling in, Baker Josh and I started with a game of Codenames Duet (which quickly turned into Codenames Triad and then Quad and so on…) We lost our first game when Josh unwisely gave the clue “sand” when “castle” was an available choice, especially when I and my reluctant partner [user=daylighter]Matthew[/user] had been considering castle for the clue “fish” earlier. He was attempting to push us in the direction of “bikini” (which was my next guess) and disk (as in “disk sander”, which I never would have thought of).

The next game went much better, with the other side guessing our last word in sudden death. Then we split off into groups. Since we had two new women joining us with very little experience in the realm of strategy gaming, I opted out of the offered game of Spirit Island, which normally I would never turn down. I figured most of the guys wanted to play something meatier and I should focus on making the newcomers welcome with something a little tamer.

After playing the “what game should we play?” game for a while, four of us settled on Sleuth and the other half dug in to a game of Raiders of the North Sea (must be another new Kickstarter acquisition because I’ve never heard of it).

It’s been a while since I played Sleuth, so it took me a few moments to remember my game-winning note-taking strategy. Said strategy won me two games in a row against [user=bigft64]the game’s owner[/user], so I was feeling pretty good about myself. One out of the two newcomers seemed to be as taken with the game as I am – she was the one who suggested the second play, and the only thing that kept me from agreeing to her suggestion of a third play was that the other woman who’d joined us didn’t seem to be enjoying it much, and was struggling to grasp some of the mechanics of the game.

We finished off the night with a quick game of Qwixx, which I also won – not an earth-shattering victory since it’s a dice game, but like I said, I’ll take what I can get, considering I usually win a pretty small percentage of games I play.

Playing with newcomers is sometimes a struggle – I want to make sure we start light so they don’t get overwhelmed with heavy strategy too early on and get discouraged, but our group generally favors heavier games and the cult of the new at that. We have one woman in particular who shows up on occasion and tell us “I don’t care what we play; I’ll play anything,” and then doesn’t understand why this is a difficult concept for us. I don’t think she understands that when she says this, we have to take into account her experience level (low), ability to process new-rules and complex strategies (still developing) and how willing we are on that particular night to slow down our game significantly to walk her through it (varies by person and week and moment). But it’s hard to say that without being rude or alienating.

I think I need to acquire a few more starter Euro games to bring with me for occasions like that (usually someone brings Carcassonne or Stone Age, but I dislike the latter and have limited patience for the former). Like Puerto Rico. Or even Catan! What are some other entry-level (and yet still fun) Eurogames I should consider for my collection when I have some spare funds? I guess I should probably give Ticket to Ride more credit than I do.
Source: GitNG @ BoardGameGeek

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