I Alone Noble in a Warm Food Feud On Labor Day, we always cook out at my grandparent's house. We have what I call the patented "Tub of Meat", where it's usually some combination of brats, hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, pork chops, or steaks. (Yeah, I'm gonna turn vegetarian reeaaaal soon. Any day now. I promise. Sure thing.) Not long after gorging ourselves, we dug out Mystery Rummy: Al Capone. I'm a big fan of the Mystery Rummy series, having enjoyed pretty much all of them that I've played. They all manage to have a different flavor and enough gameplay quirks to make them distinctive. Al Capone has you trying to collect sets of gangsters, but with much "meaner" cards than in the other Mystery Rummy games. There are cards that let you steal other players layoffs on your melds, cards that force them to give you stuff from their hand...the emphasis on having a lot of different special power cards, along with the bonus scoring for finishing full sets of gangsters, these are the elements that make Al Capone unique among its Mystery Rummy brethren. I sat in for a couple of early hands, then had to run some errands where my wife took my place. When I returned, she had just finished mopping up the competition (this was a good weekend of gaming for her, to say the least.) My downfall in the game is being tempted to go for the Al Capone set. Individually, his cards are only worth 1 point apiece, but if you can get all 8, you score 35 points. If you get all 8 *and* manage to go out, you shut out all the other players--but I've never pulled off this feat, and I'm not sure I've seen it done either. We prefer Mystery Rummy: Jack the Ripper, especially for two-players, but Al Capone is the better game for the bigger group. I like that in Jack the Ripper you get penalized for what's left in your hand, but since there are cards that allow players to steal layoffs, keeping cards in your hand is sometimes the only way to try and keep someone from finishing a full set--but even then... We also knocked out a five-player Great Chili Cookoff, where as always I spent my time waiting on rare ingredients. I'm such a dweeb. Next up was a pair of deckbuilding games. We went first into Quarriors! with four-players. This was my wife's first time playing it. I had filthy, rotten, crappy luck and didn't manage an early Assistant score/cull like the others. I started going for the Defenders thathadhigh defense plus granted bonus glory for scoring, and was finally able to get on the board. What's funny is that Jeremy bought dragons, but all he ever managed to roll was the "baby" 4/4 side. Erica had one massive scoring turn and basically ran away with it. I wanted to play to 20 because I had finally gotten set up with multiple Defenders, but they were ready to move on as the early game drug on much longer than expected due to everyone kind of suffering from bad rolls. Quarriors! really and truly is exactly the kind of game I thought it would be, and I enjoy it. It's the 'lightest' of the deckbuilders I've played in terms of strategy, and the dice-rolling keeps the gameplay varied. I'm glad to own it. It's not to be taken seriously, but it is a lot of fun. The only thing I'm souring on is the storage--the tin is really cool as it's shaped like one of the dragon dice (including the faces on the different sides of the tin) but it's a pain in the ass putting the dice back in the little baggies, and it makes setup take longer too. I'm almost to the point where I want to just nab a plano and dump 'em in...but then I couldn't carry around the cool tin. Decisions, decisions. Last but not least was Nightfall. We started slowly as this was also Erica's first game, but I think she knew we'd been playing it a ton and wanted to try it out. What followed was a vicious, backstabbing, political bloodbath as we each did our best to screw over everyone else. There were times where alliances didn't even last through an entire chain. I had learned my lesson last time and laid low, never dumping tons of cards in big chains to attract attention to myself, always just keeping what I needed to defend myself, always careful to quietly dole out punishment evenly to all players, so as to not anger any one of them. I also had "helpful" suggestions, such as convincing my brother to use his Leave Me! to force my other brother to take a wound from his own card (instead of me) and then once when being attacked by Mad Jake, I casually pointed out that "the free wound he dishes out can be given to anyone", and so redirected another Wound that way as well. Aren't I helpful? Hell yes I am, when it saves my ass. We neared the end of the game and Erica noticed that I probably didn't have nearly as many wounds as I'd been whining about, and tossed a couple my way. I finished the game the very next turn with an unblockable 3 against Jeremy, dishing out the last wound. Final score? Ken: 5 wounds Erica: 5 wounds Jarrod: 6 wounds Jeremy: 12 wounds (Editor's Note: sorry, bro) A tie! But a-ha-ha...the tiebreaker rules handed me the game, much to Erica's chagrin, who continued to insist that the game was, y'know, actually a tie. (Best quote: "Well honey, I'll admit the tie-breaker is sort of almost random." "ALMOST random? ALMOST?" Heh. Sorry sweetheart, but I WON...BOOYAH~!) That wrapped up a great weekend of family boardgaming. BUT WAIT~! As a bonus, my brother and I squeezed in a 2-player Lord of the Rings LCG today. After completely schooling the first scenario with my custom decks, we decided we were ready to brave the Anduin. He chose one of the two decks I had sorta earmarked as "support" decks--ie, if we had 3 or 4 players, those were the two that would fill the backup role. Since he had Glorfindel, I figured he would have enough beef to be of use. I took my old standby deck with Theodred, Aragorn, and Eowyn, which is a questing machine that can fight if it must, but not nearly as well as the Legolas/Gimli combo from my "main" Tactics/Lore deck. Anyway, I don't want to give away any spoilers as I know there are some who prefer not to have them, but we were basically dead upon scenario set-up. We ended up staring down the barrel of two huge beasts right away, before we could even build up and get out a couple of allies. Our death? Painful. Quick. Hideous. Embarassing. When it was all over, Gollum came by, had a conversation with himself, and dry-humped our charred skulls. Yep, it was that bad. I told him to grab the Tactics/Lore deck and we were going to try again, and our luck--and effectiveness-was much, much better. I was questing, he was killin'. The endgame though suddenly found us with a crazy high threat, and one more turn would have done us in...but leave it to Aragorn to save the day, as he and one of my shmoes laid the smack down on the two enemies left, winning us the game. I really do like the game, but I've found that with such a limited pool of heroes, you really do need to have certain characters in the game to stand a chance. Eowyn, for example, is a questing machine at 4 Willpower, with the ability to pump for more. Aragorn can quest and then untap for the cost of one of his resource tokens--which might be problematic if Steward of Gondor wasn't so ridiculous on him. Maybe when the pool gets bigger we'll see more variety in the effective hero teams; still, for now, I'm digging the game. I'm thinking about dropping the Lore in the Tactics deck and going pure Tactics; it would only be for two player+ games as solo Tactics is suicide, but I think pure Red becomes a real killing machine and those little green books are getting in the way of MURDERDEATHKILL.
Well folks, that's going to do it for this week's very informal (and ultra, ultra late) edition of Next of Ken. Thanks for reading, and I'll see ya in seven.