Participants: Jon, David K, Hershel, Gili, Abraham, Sarah, Binyamin, Moshe Avraham
Sarah is Abraham’s wife; this is her second visit. MA contacted me two weeks ago interested in knowing if anyone knew how to play Pentago, as he was interested in learning more about it. I invited him to drop by. He was uninterested in any other games, just in Pentago.
Magic: the Gathering
I invited David to come a bit early and we got in a draft and three games of Magic. The first two games were both mana skewed victories. Really, Magic has a mjor flaw and this is it. Way too many games come down to mana screw, even after mulligan rules.
I created a rule a few years ago that helped out immensely; I stopped playing with it when they introduced the new mulligan rules, in order to give them a chance, but we find them wanting. Here is the rule:
Each player can, once only, and only before finishing his or her fifth turn, do either of the following: a) discard a random non-land card from the game to draw a random land card from his or her deck; or b) discard a random land card from the game to draw a random non-land card from his or her deck.
In practice, we look at the bottom of our deck, choose the first one we find, and then shuffle the deck. If, for some reason, this would interfere with some already played card (such as something that puts a card on top of your deck), we work around it in the most sensible fashion.
The one land difference usually turns an unplayable game into an enjoyable one. We have decided to reinstitute this rule in future games.
In our third game, I used this rule, and we had a longer battle. I still lost, though David said my deck was slightly stonger. I played White/Green with a Blue splash. Many fliers, counters, and cards that gave bonuses for the number of creatue type X in the deck. David played Green/Red with Blue.
David, Gili, Abraham, Sarah
First plays for Sarah and David. David starved some of the time, but I don’t know the rest.
Hershel 59, Jon 46, Nadine 46, Binyamin 44
First plays for everyone. Binyamin taught the rules, though it was his first time, too. He warned Nadine that she probably wouldn’t like it (too complicated), and she didn’t. In the end, she didn’t not like it as much as she thought she wasn’t liking it most of the game.
I thought it was quite good, as did Hershel. Owing to not understanding the strategies and values of resources, we made mistakes in our priorities and only came to realize how valuable the commodity chips were in the last third of the game. It was about that time that we also noticed the first real problem with the game, which was that a different number of cards to acquire these chips are available each round, and if you happen to be last player and N-1 of these cards are turned up, you’re screwed – especially if N cards were turned up on the other rounds.
Aside from this, there are a lot of different strategies to explore and many paths end in frustration once you realize that someone else is going to beat you to the payoff in that path and there’s no longer anything you can do about it. It is for that reason that I thought playing with chips hidden might be worthwhile: you’re just as screwed, but at least you don’t know it for a few more rounds.
In our game, Binyamin tried ignoring the tiles altogether, but it didn’t pay off fo him; I was able to beat him to the cascading point sets anyway, which was the payoff he needed to compete. I played a balanced game, but ignored the transient points from irrigation too much. Hershel had the most irrigation and tiles, which gave enough of a VP boost to win.
MA and Jon, David, Hershel, or Binyamin
While or between various games, each of us took turns trying this simple abstract. It’s a 6×6 board divided into four 3×3 quadrants. Each quadrant can rotate. On your turn, place a piece and rotate a quadrant. Five in a row wins.
6×6 is not a very large board. As we played, we found several of the major patterns, none too difficult to discern if you can keep the abstract lines in your head. Though I didn’t prove anything, I pretty muh decided that first player will always win (maybe force a draw), as his first move advantage is huge and second player spend too much time playing catch up. This advatange may be mitigated by allowing the second player to choose to play or swap colors as his first move.
It’s a decent abstract. I wasn’t thrilled with the way that one player can exactly unrotate the previous rotation of his opponent. I would rather that there be a one move wait between undoing a rotation. I think it would make it slightly more interesting, and also, perhaps, help the second player somewhat.
Sarah+, Abaraham, Gili
First play for Sarah. Everyone thought Abraham was winning, but Sarah snuck through a victory. They played with the suggested introdutory card set.
We played a few hands to wrap up the evening.