Tag Archives: codenames

All the Small Things

Warning: this is going to be an image-light post because my phone died at the beginning of games night last night. I managed to get exactly two pictures before we started our first game of the evening.

This was a night full of small games for me – I managed to get in six unique games, eight games total, over a period of four hours. Not bad! First up was Karuba. I’ve been wanting to try it for a month or so now, and B started bringing it regularly a few weeks ago. But each other time it came to the table I’ve been otherwise occupied.

Here is a picture of all my tiles laid out neatly in numerical order:

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And here is a picture of the explorer and temple meeples. I’m a fan.

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Immediately after this picture was when my phone died, so you’ll just have to use your imagination!

I liked this game. The combination of tile-laying, spacial puzzle, risk-management (should I lay down this good tile or spend it for movement points? Will I have enough movement left? Will the other players get ahead of me?) worked well for me. I wouldn’t want to make a steady diet of it, but I’d certainly play it again without hesitation.

While we played that, the other half of the room occupied themselves with a game of Monty Python Fluxx. I’m honestly surprised every time the more “hardcore” gamers play Fluxx – I’m not sure it’s anyone at our night’s favorite game, and even *I* wrinkle my nose up at it most of the time these days. It has its place – and that place is for playing in lines at con, playing late at night at con when your brain is tired but you’re not ready to give up and sleep yet… pretty much, its place is for playing at con.

This is the point where my memory of who played what when gets a little hazy. There was a long game of Panamax played off in one corner, a game of Evolution in the middle of the room, and on our side of the galaxy there were a half dozen shorter games, several of which I got to knock off my “to play” list. First up was Welcome to the Dungeon, one that I’ve been eyeing for months, but wasn’t entirely sure I’d like. “Press your luck” games can be fun, but most of the time they just irritate me. Welcome to the Dungeon turned out to be the former, I’m happy to say, although I wish it had gone on a little longer. I feel like just as we were getting the hang of it, it was over. Maybe if we were more devious with our playing we could have extended the game longer.

Next up was Monopoly Deal. I wouldn’t normally play this sort of game (ie games based on major game company franchises) but I’ve been more willing to give them a chance since I learned that Yahtzee Free for All is actually a pretty fun game. My mom sent me this one in her last care package, and I’ve been looking forward to giving it a try so I could report back to her. It was a success! It some of the parts of Monopoly I like (set collecting, demanding money from your friends) and none of the parts I hate (playing for much too long, landing on your opponent’s properties over and over and over again, hating your friends). Playing it also made me realize that I haven’t played actual Monopoly in maybe 15 years. My roommates and I may remedy that tonight so I can see whether it’s actually the terrible game I’ve been claiming all this time.

Since the rest of the room was still busy in their long games, the three of us kept gaming together, and found three more games we could all agree on – and they all happened to be cooperative! We played two rounds of FUSE, and didn’t win either of them. Although I think we would have won the second round if another restaurant guest hadn’t come over and said “Okay, I’m curious. What are you playing? It looks fun!” I think I did a pretty good job of chasing her away politely by saying, “We’re playing this game called FUSE where you have ten minutes to defuse the bombs in this deck of cards – and we have about four minutes left.” I would have loved to explain further but bombs are Serious Business. I did hold up the box lid for her to see, probably costing us the game but it made me feel less rude.

Two games of that was about all the stress I could handle, so then we moved on to a couple games of Mysterium (bringing my total count for my 100 Play Challenge up to a whopping 17). Turns out being a psychic in a three player game is even harder than being a psychic in a 4+ player game! Of course, we did play on hard mode, too, which made it even trickier. Winning one out of the two games felt pretty good.

To finish the evening off we played a quick 3-player game of Codenames, which we just barely managed to win against the dummy blue team. And that was that! Another Wednesday in the bag.

Now, I’m off to play Monopoly without the help of the “money on Free Parking” rule I’ve always played with. Wish me luck….

Gamers Gone Wild

I hereby vow to do a better job of sticking to a schedule. Here it is Wednesday, almost time for another gaming meetup, and I haven’t blogged about the weekend’s gaming. Plus I have these great Youtube videos I want to share!

On Saturday I took a leisurely drive up the 118 to visit friends in Moorpark who were throwing a “board games and relax” party. I was actually looking more forward to the “relax” part of that invite, as occasionally it would be nice to have a conversation with my friends that doesn’t involve resource management, rules manuals, passing dice, and negotiating treaties.

That… kind of happened. I did have some lovely conversation with one of their friends about indie roleplaying games, and I’ve added a whole bunch to my list of games to try: Lady Blackbird, World Wide Wrestling, Sorcerer,The Final Girl, and Night Witches. He invited me to join in their Apocalypse World game but as much as I’d love to, I think joining a regular RPG campaign isn’t a good fit for my schedule. We left with an understanding that we’ll make some one-shots happen at some indeterminate point in the future. Also he was super jealous that I had the chance to game with Vincent Baker once upon a time. If only I’d known what I had and taken more advantage of living in MA!

Because we were all gamers, there was no way we were going to have a get-together without some games getting played. While we waited for pizza we enjoyed a game of Aye, Dark Overlord. Which it turns out is a lot more fun when you don’t try to use too many rules and just enjoy blaming each other for being bad minions. “Well, you see, your Lordship, yeah, I was going to use my magic wand just as L told me to, but it turns out the wand was made from the wood of an ancient tree, and it didn’t have any magic power. So I sent K to the scorched desert to find a new one. It’s really HER fault the mission failed.” This needs to make its way to our game nights more often.

After we had filled our bodies with delicious pizza, Codenames was next to the table. My new RPG buddy was itching to try it out, and I am always more than happy to teach it. I think maybe I should have used that for my 100 play challenge instead of Mysterium!

After three rounds, we switched to Telestrations. I haven’t decided yet if I like it less or more than its big brother Telephone Pictionary, but in either form it’s a worthy addition to any game night. Adding to the challenge/hilarity was the team of father-and-five-year-old-girl. I wish I’d taken pictures of their artwork!

Once the kids had left, the rest of us settled in for some games of Fibbage. It seems like that has become the default way to end the evening at least half the time at our gaming parties. It is also the time that we are the most mature. Even if there hasn’t been drinking involved, most of the answers end up devolving to fart and booby jokes, because really, winning is secondary to getting your friends’ approval as the funniest liar and deep down we’re all ten-year-olds pretending to be adults. Also, somehow, T and K won a few rounds despite not even being there.

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Thus ended another night of gaming. I used to be super snobby about party games, and I’m glad to discover there are party games I enjoy that my friends also enjoy. Gone are the days when I have to cringe as yet another game of Pictionary, Charades, or Trivial Pursuit comes out of the closet.

Also, I promised some videos. First, the reasons that Heroquest is the best game ever made. It’s hard to argue with this guy’s logic. If it wouldn’t mean taking Heroquest away from a seven-year-old who’s really enjoying it with his dad, I might try to retrieve my copy from MA after watching this excellent argument.

Then there’s this French video that Stuart shared on his blog today. It’s funny because it’s all true, down to the confused reactions of non-gamers.

However, just once I’d like to see a video where the gamers are predominantly women and the non-gamers are men. Us ladies game too! And we have the same difficulties in communicating with non-gamers that you menfolk have. I don’t understand why more women aren’t interested in this hobby (and not just because their husbands and boyfriends drag them into it). I guess it’s the same reason that math and science are always struggling to find ways to get more women involved. It’s frustrating. Sometimes it would be nice to complain about resource management AND my nails to someone who isn’t going to simply be tolerating me on one or the other of those topics.

Humility, Community, and Communication

On Saturday I attended a friend’s wedding in the afternoon, but I also managed to make it to about half of the twice-monthly games day in Oxnard.

Since I showed up late, everyone was already in the middle of games. Once several of the groups had finished whatever they were playing, a few of them left and several more went off to grab dinner from the taco truck across the street. While we waited, the two of us remaining broke open my new copy of Kodama: The Tree Spirits.

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I won, and so I got to decorate my tree with the Kodama tokens. Cute game, and I liked the unique mechanic of growing your tree. I’m glad I added this one to my collection.

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Next up was my other new game, King’s Vineyard. We had some initial difficulties with misreading the rules and placing the kings way too far down in the deck, but once we fixed that the game made a lot more sense. I can see why this ended up in the flea market, but my main reason for buying it is that now we have two wine-themed games in my house’s collection. Seems like a good reason to have a wine-tasting-and-games party at some point! It’s also another pretty game. Not going to be great for color-blind people, though, which might be a problem.

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Around the time our game was finishing up, the other group was finishing their game of Star Wars Rebellion. One more person left, which left us with eight. Just the right number for one big game! But Codenames was vetoed, then Ca$h and Gun$. So instead we split off into two groups: I suggested that I wanted to learn Medina, and the other group played Orléans.

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I was in a weird mental place that day. As we played I thought “Medina is a lot like that Microscope RPG we played! You start out with a blank slate, not much idea of where to start, and no real idea of how the game is going to progress. Then as time goes on you start to see what kind of a city you’ve been building together.” The difference of course being that Medina is non-cooperative and cut-throat. It’s also beautiful. The designers really put thought into their component design and created an attractive as well as a challenging and enjoyable game.

I lost miserably, though. L, our young 21 y/o whippersnapper, is a pretty logical lad, and I should know better than to think I can win when I play against him. Or engineers and mathematicians. Of which we seem to have a lot. I was a philosophy & religion major – while I’m busy thinking about how interesting the various strategies are, everyone else is busy winning…

Medina was much faster than Orléans, so one of our brave party suggested some four-player rounds of Codenames, teams straight across the table.

My teammate and I have played Codenames and similar non-verbal clue-giving games together before and discovered that we think very differently. So, our pre-game conversation went like this:

Him: “Now remember, I’m an engineer.”
Me: “Uh huh. And?”
Him: “That means you have to think like an engineer when you give me clues.”
Me: “… I have no idea how to do that.”
Him: “… We are going to lose.”

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In fact, we won 2/3 of the games, and only one of those wins was because the other team guessed the assassin word. It required some extra mental gymnastics on both our parts, though, to not only think of good clues but ensure those clues that were also compatible with the way the other one thinks. At one point I actually opted to pass after my first guess: his clue was “soldier, 2” for the words “draft” and “dress”, and while I was leaning towards “dress” for my second guess, it seemed too unlike him to make the leap from “soldier” to “dress uniform”. Which is exactly what he had done, despite it not being his normal kind of clue, because he figured I would make the connection. Bit of a “Gift of the Magi” situation right there.

It was an educational game for me. Previously I had decided that he just wasn’t good at those sorts of games. We never seemed to be in sync and I consider myself to be a master clue giver. (Also super humble.) But what I realized was that I was being really arrogant and self-important in assuming that “thinks like me” is the same thing as “good”. I feel like a jerk. Sorry, dude.

It also got me thinking about the importance of humility to community. In the context of gaming community, it means realizing that different people have different styles of learning, play, and thought. Community requires a the humility of “my way isn’t the only way,” and a willingness to sometimes step outside your own familiar comfort zone to make room for others in a game. What makes a gaming group a community instead of just another social night is that we don’t always insist on our own way to the exclusion of others. We make adjustments. Sure, we can make our preferences known, but if we can’t be flexible and sometimes focus on the enjoyment of our fellow gamers over our own wants, we’re not being a community. At that point we’d be a clique, the same kind that most of us have some experiences with, and most of them negative.

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Speaking of humility, nothing makes one more humble than making jokes that fall flat more often than not, as usually happens when I play our last game of the evening, Fibbage. Our host decided he wanted to take advantage of his church’s projector screen before we left for the night, so the six of us who were left gathered in the sanctuary with our phones and played a few rounds. Fibbage is a great little game and it should be part of every party host’s game collection if you have the internet and smartphones.

Gearing up for a Weekend at Nerd Central

This weekend is Gamex, a Memorial Day weekend tabletop convention in Los Angeles. I’m heading down there Friday afternoon after work and staying through Sunday, so I’ve started setting aside games to bring with me.

I already know that I’ll spend a good part of the weekend demoing games in the event hall and borrowing games from the sizable game library. It’s a great opportunity to try out games I don’t normally have access to and catch up on some old classics that I’ve missed. I’m also hoping to check out an indie RPG or two. There are guys that bring plastic totes full of their own games and need to transport them using wagons, hand trucks, or extra suitcases. Me, I try to limit what I bring to a single reusable shopping bag and what I can tuck into the extra space in my suitcase.

So far, the contenders are:

1. …and then, we held hands.

I picked this up at the last convention (Orccon over President’s Day weekend) after a recommendation from my friend Mike over at Innroads Ministries. I’ve had the opportunity to play it on two occasions – once when I bought it, and again on an afternoon a friend and I dedicated entirely to playing the two-player games that we don’t get to break out often. This is a game that I think would lose something if you focused simply on its mechanics and ignored the theme, and since I don’t know a lot of gamers who care much about theme, I’ve been holding back on bringing it with me to game nights. I think the con might be a perfect opportunity to take it out and see if I can get some strangers to play with me.

2. Mysterium

Because those 86 more plays aren’t going to play themselves, and I haven’t had the pleasure of watching complete strangers work together to solve the riddle of ridiculously vague clues in a while.

3. Spyfall

Not sure about this one. It takes up more space than I’d like for the amount I expect it will get played, which is maybe none. But it is a nice, light social game and I like that it requires a different kind of strategizing than most other games I have access to.

4. Cribbage

Thinking of just bringing my tiny travel board, although I’d rather have a three-player board on hand. You never know when you’ll find fellow cribbage lovers, but on the other hand, there are probably games I’d rather play given the option. One of these times I should join the cribbage tournament just to see what it’s like.

5. Codenames

This is such a great game to break out if you have a group of six or more and everyone is being indecisive, lazy, or worn out. I’ll probably take it out of its box, though – it packs up pretty tiny when you need it to.

6. The Great Dalmuti

Another light filler game that’s good with a group and good for a few rounds at least. Shouldn’t have a problem tucking it into my bag. I’ve only gotten to play it on one occasion since it was given to me in March, though – no one seems interested. I need to learn how to sell it.

Edit: 7. Eldritch Horror

I don’t get to play this nearly as often as I’d like, and since I’m not bringing many larger games, maybe I can make room for this one just in case some people are up for it.

Other games I was considering but that I don’t think will make the cut:

Parade – This is beautiful but I’m not convinced it’s a great game. Need to get more plays in but in the meantime, not going to bother bringing it.
Dutch Blitz – will I really find people to play with me? Uncertain. Maybe I’ll bring it anyway.
Dixit – Too many more interesting games will be available in the games library.