April 20th, 2002



Today, I went over to play games at Dani and Monica's house.

We started with the new fifth edition of Car Wars. Car Wars was the first hobby game I ever got; I bought it in 1984 (more or less) and had lots of the supplements, but I hardly ever got to play. (I've done that with a lot of games. I'm kind of stupid that way.) I remember trying to play it once for my birthday once year, but not working out well at all; it took hours for us to play a few turns. I had heard that the new version was streamlined and played much faster; the FAQ said that a group of new players got through a big game in an hour. So I was interested in trying it out.

It certainly played a lot faster than it did 18 years ago. We got through a fair bit of a 4-player game in about three hours, which included everyone learning the rules.

After a bit of driving around and mild shots at each other, we had a bit of excitement; I got behind Char's tail and managed to keep up the tail through a hairpin turn at 100 mph. I put a couple of micromissiles into his rear, and then managed to ram him hard enough to go through his rear armor and destroy his power plant.

As he was starting to coast to a halt, then, he managed to T-bone Monica's car at 80mph. This managed to take him through the right armor, through the driver and power plant, and almost through the left armor. On the other hand, it also took out all of his front armor, his front gun, and almost killed his driver. While I tried to square off with Dani, Char's driver got out of his car and got in Monica's totaled car, in order to try to shoot her guns at the viable cars.

Soon after that, Dani suggested we wrap the game up. That was probably the right thing to do; it would have been unkind to leave Char and Monica out for long.

I have mixed feelings about the game, though. I felt that there was still a lot of fiddling to making it all work. And I felt limited by ammo... I felt that if I was going to take out two cars (probably necessary to be the winner), I couldn't waste any ammo on wild shots, and would really have to make every shot count. Which may be more strategic, but wasn't quite the feeling that I wanted from the game. I would probably play it again at a con, but it's not going to be something I crave playing.

After that, we played Princes of Florence, a Rio Grande game. This definitely fits into the common pattern of German games; it involved achieving a maximum score by delicately balancing a horde of tradeoffs as best you can. In this case, the premise was that each player represented a princely family of Florence, and the optimization involved placing various buildings in a 2-dimensional grid as well as other aspects.

I had purchased this game once, with instructions awkwardly translated from German, and had sold it off again because I couldn't figure it out. The Rio Grande English translation is much more comprehensible to me.

I didn't do so well at the game, though I suppose I did adequately. I don't have such a knack for the complex-optimization German games.

After that, dinner. Monica's chili was tasty.

After dinner, we hit upon the idea of playing Cosmic Encounter. Dani brought out a version that seemed very old to me. We had a bit of rules confusion at first, but things settled down. It looked like Dani was going to win a game that would have felt too early for me, but we managed to gang up on him and even things out. After a satisfying back-and-forth, we ended up with me sharing a victory with Dani and Monica against Char.

Char had to leave then. For the last game of the night, we played Settlers of Catan. It was an unusual game; wheat and wood were rare, and sheep and rock were plentiful. So we ended up doing a lot more late-game development (cards and cities) than early-game development (roads and settlements). I ended up winning by stealing longest road and earning largest army. I hardly ever get Largest Army.

All in all, an enjoyable day.