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  • Next of Ken, Volume 23: The Late, Late Edition Featuring Excape, Dog, Quarriors, Nightfall, and a Host of Family Gaming

Next of Ken, Volume 23: The Late, Late Edition Featuring Excape, Dog, Quarriors, Nightfall, and a Host of Family Gaming

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Next of Ken

Game Information

There Will Be Games
Sorry for the late hour this week as I'm still de-compressing from a very long holiday weekend.  This week on tap--I'll talk about a bunch of games played this past weekend (including some re-runs.)  So let's get informal, cozy, and down n' dirty.  Join us, won't you? Starving at a Feast, and All This Wine I've Never Tasted   Long weekends are hell.  (Cue violin music...yeah, I know, I know.)  It's not the time off; it's, y'know, the whole getting back to work thing.   One thing these long weekends are good for--gaming with the family.     On Sunday night, my brother and his wife came over to play games.  We started off slowly with Reiner Knizia's Excape (3-6 players, 30 minutes). This had been a present from my brother and so far, it's been a nice game to sit and play with the family.     Excape_BoxIn Excape, players are trying to escape...well, the game doesn't say, exactly.  The game box depicts people tripping, tackling, and running all over each other trying to get away from some impending horror.  That's the best part; just imagine that Cthulhu has awakened, and the cover of the game shows everyone's reaction.     You "escape" by rolling a pair of specialty dice.  The dice are six-siders, but one one die the 4 has been replaced with an X, and on the other, the five has been replaced by an X, and also the six has been replaced by a seven.  On a player's turn, they roll the two dice.  They can arrange them however they like, but one will be tens place and the other the ones place.  So the best possible roll is '76'--a seven, and a six.     Once you see what you've rolled, you have two options.  You can either keep rolling, trying to improve your score (the higher the better), or you can stop and place your dice on one of the levels of a chart on the center of the board that's not already occupied by an opponent's pair of dice.  These levels go from 5 all the way down to 0.     You want your dice to have a high roll, because when dice are placed on a lower level, that player gets to knock off all dice on higher levels that are the same score or lower as the dice just placed.  So if someone has a '63' on the 5 spot, and another player has a '46' on the 4 spot, if my dice are 63 or higher and I place them on a level lower than those two, those get removed from the chart.     If your dice survive on the chart all the way back to your turn, you get to move your pawn that many spaces.  So a higher roll has a better chance of making it all the way around.     The problem with keeping rolling is that if you roll one of the Xs, you will get sent back that many spaces and your turn ends without placing any dice at all.  If your first roll has an X, you can count it as a 0 (so a six and an X on the first roll could be '60.').  After that though, Xs will stop you cold and move you backward.     The only other special rule is that if you roll doubles (only possible with 1, 2, or 3 due to the special nature of the dice) then you move forward either 1, 2, or 3 spaces depending on the doubles you just rolled.  Get lucky, you can string them together, and you're free to still use your roll to place on the chart if you want to stop there.     Basically, it's a matter of trying to roll high, picking when to go for a high value, when to screw over other players, and how much you're willing to risk a medium-valued roll on a higher rung of the ladder.  Vindictive players can play their high-value combos on the bottom rungs and knock off everyone above, but of course when their turn comes around, they won't get to move very far as a result.     I like it as a very light dice-rolling filler that kids can play, too.  They'll love the colorful dice and getting to toss them turn after turn.  My only caveat is I don't recommend it with six, as your choices diminish greatly on "will I screw someone over or not?"  You end up only having one spot maybe to place your dice, so the choice is out of your hands in that regard, or you're forced to keep re-rolling just due to what's out there already.     With four, it's pretty much perfect for what it is.  Five is a little crowded but works okay too.  For the cheap price, if you want a good kids and family game, this one is a good one to pick up.         We then moved to The Great Chili Cookoff (already reviewed HERE.)  This continues to be a great go-to pickup game that can handleGreatChiliCookoff both large and small groups.  The trade-off is that with the smaller group, you get more control, but with the larger group, there are better odds the rare ingredients will actually be in play.     The silly theme is also great for kids.  My ten-year old son enjoys playing it, trying to compile recipes, even if the strategy of what to play and when still eludes him a bit.     Since it was my sister-in-law's first time playing, we simply played a pair of hands and declared a "winner" for the hand after each one.  In both games, I held out for a rare ingredient that didn't come up, and I knew I was risking it by not going for the simpler but lower-scoring recipe.  My wife won the first and then tied for second with my sister-in-law the second game, where, of course, I didn't learn my lesson and held out for a rare ingredient AGAIN.  I will never learn--just call me "The Stubborn Chef."       We finished off the night with Dog (also already talked about in a previous column--for the uninitiated, it's basically Parchisi with a deck of cards.)  It had been several months since we had busted this one out.  In my opinion, despite the fact that it runs a little long for what it is, it's the perfect social game; you have a partner, and are trying to help each other out, but you only have to pass one card to each other at the start of each round.  You're also generally so wrapped up in what you need to do, that the dependance on partnership play doesn't overwhelm new players.     It's also great that it's such a solid update to an old children's game, and by allowing you to play from a hand of cards, you're able to attack the other players, use your pawns to block them, or use your special cards to wreck their plans.     I continued my night of high-risk play but making an early gamble that my sister-in-law didn't have a "12" card...hey, guess what she had in her hand?     While my brother and I both got three of our pawns home, we couldn't stop the ladies.  Once one set of their pawns were home, they were able to use both hands of cards to get the rest home, dodging my feeble attempts to capture them as they moved through my turf.   We called it a night as the rain continued to just pour down; our outlook on our twice-yearly "Dog Days Flea Market" looked to be in jeapordy.  And sure enough, it rained...and rained...and rained us out completely.    

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.)     Mystery_Rummy_Al_CaponeNot 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 thatquarriorshadhigh 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.     nightfallWhat 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 myLord_of_The_Rings_TCG_Box 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.      


There Will Be Games

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