Thursday, January 13, 2005

When headaches are FUN

This week, at dictator Luch's request, we played Tigris and Euphrates and Blokus. It was an odd evening, because Kozure came home to find that his computer was so infested with virii and spyware that he was forced to spend the entire evening fixing it. Luckily, Tilli stepped in and took T&E head on.

She hadn't played before, so we explained the rules and got going. Disaster tiles were put to better use than they normally are by our group. Kingdoms were effectively sliced and diced this way with some pretty interesting results (fortunes were swinging wildly). The game was very different for another reason: Since we paid much more attention to moving our leaders around to maximize our points, rather than independently building kingdoms and scrambling for the treasures, the game actually ended due to lack of tiles (with 5 treasures remaining on the board!). Highly unusual! We also stumbled across a new strategy: placing tiles adjacent to leaders specifically to prevent them from playing red temples, keeping them vulnerable to inner conflict. I'm actually the one who did it, but it's not until Shemp pointed it out that it was apparent that this was a good strategy in many circumstances.

Unfortuantely, T&E can be daunting to learn. The difference between internal and external conflict, and particularly the consequences of each, are abstract and therefore often hard to remember. I would say that Tilli did better than most (her score certainly reflected that), despite the headache it was giving her. In the end, she said she had fun but felt somewhat dazed by the experience, and was going to sit out for the rest of the evening. We immediately tried to get her back with Blokus.

At first it didn't work. Kozure joined us for one round, but then he discovered that his computer disinfecting wasn't going as well as he'd hoped, so Tilli joined us for a second game. Blokus continues to be a fast paced, light and fun abstract strategy game. Whereas the first few games seem to revolve around finding opportunities to simply place your pieces, our most recent games have seen players much more on the attack. Blocking, carving out future growth paths, making pretty patterns... all valid strategies.

To finish things off, we had another game of T&E. For whatever reason, this three player game led to very high scores. Luch seemed in command for most of the game, with a stranglehold on two monuments and an on-again off-again relationship with a third giving him an enormous stream of points in three of four colours. his strategy was interesting: he frequently dumped tiles in order to have the ones he needed to win battles. This is how he succeeded in securing so many temples for so long. Amazingly, he actually finished last... All the tile changing and fortifying didn't leave him enough opportunity to beef up his one weak sphere. Still, it was a tight race, 3 points separating the first and last place.

Footnote: Every game, I build temples, and every game, they are quickly stolen from me. Note to self: Gretzky!!!


  1. Ah, Easy (or are you now Sneakular?), you beat me to the punch! I was finally going to stop slacking and write a proper post, and you swept in and did the authoring first! Damn you! Damn yooooouuuuuuuuuu!!! I never should have tried to think of a witty title!

    (Not really.)

    Game things (T&E first):

    I think that your account of Luch's temple advantage in the fourth game is a little bit overstated - he had a stranglehold on one monument, and a partial hold on the second - the third was mine, exclusively and continuously.

    Tilli's debut was indeed an impressive showing for a first game.

    Having a three player game of T&E felt considerably different to me than the four-player. Partially, I think this can be attributed to just trying to keep track of 12 leaders instead of 16, and partially to the fact that there is simply more available real estate on the board. The upshot is that I felt like there was a real opportunity to plan and strategize, as opposed to the seat-of-the-pants short-term tactical decision making that we, as a group, usually utilize in the four player game.

    Through both iterations of T&E, it became apparent that we were improving at the game. New tactics kept appearing - you mentioned the boxing in of red tiles, and the switching of leaders within a kingdom to maintain defensive positioning was much more rigorous this time also. Again, we also hit the devestation tiles a lot harder, sometimes using them to eradicate temples supporting leaders, and softening up kingdoms for external attacks. This in turn lead to a greater focus on "blocky" rather than "snakey" kingdoms in the later game, another defensive improvement.

    I thought that the 3-player game was also interesting because it ended up with each player working exclusively in their own kingdom, echoing our first attempt at the game. Full Circle, but much, much, better!

    I think that Luch's discarding of tiles to accquire the supporters necessary to win conflicts is a fine tactic, which he perhaps overused. It can work, but every time tiles are discarded, that is an action which doesn't score any points. Do that too often, and you dig yourself a bit of a hole. I think that is why Luch didn't win, despite having a stranglehold on the lefthand side of the board.

    Which brings me to my final T&E point: One thing we all need to do is stop focusing on the board as territory, and remember that it only exists as a terrain with regions where scoring is more or less likely. Once a kingdom is no longer a priority, there's not a great advantage to defending it. One of the keys to the game, it seems to me, is to know when to let your opponents take a kingdom. It seems like persuing points for yourself is more likely to be of benefit than denying points to another specific player, unless there is a CLEAR leader. Which there doesn't ever seem to be in this game - the last three times that I've won, I've been convinced that I was losing.

    This comment is far too long - more in the next one.

  2. Shemp,

    You are right, I got mixed up and was counting the number of cubes he was getting vs the number of monuments on the table. He was generating points from a Red/Blue temple and the green points from the black/green. The third temple was built late in the game, and was noteworthy only because it was the first monument you had ever built.

    Regarding your comments on keeping track of the leader... BGG has the option of playing with points revealed. Maybe we should try that a few times and see how it changes things?

  3. Now, as for Blokus - I don't really have much to add to Kozure's assessment from last week. Fun game, easy to pick up, doesn't seem like it will get old, nicely made, Jolly Rancheresque, etc, etc. I've enjoyed playing the 1-player version at blokus(dot)com during lunchbreaks (finally beating the computer today). For some reason, though, I just don't like Thinking about the game. Playing it, yes. Thinking about it, no.

    So it's an Eight, for now, for your rankings, Easy.

    Other Wagsian Ephemera:

    Quote of the night (Luch division): All of those virus writers should be lined up and...punched in the nose!

    Meal of the Night: Kimchee dumplings, Pork and Chive Dumplings, and rice, and sauces. (This is important to note for the future, as I plan on implementing a navigate by food feature)

    Wow of the Night: Those graphics on HalfLife 2 - Wow.

    Disappointment of the Night (real division): Kozure's spyware issues.

    Disappointment of the Night (fake division): Easy's failure to follow through on his promise to leave an image on my digital camera that I would not want to see, that he would not mind showing me.

    Vow of the day: I will develop more rigour in my slacking, and catch up on comments, formatting, and other bloggy stuff.

    That's it.

  4. Replying to Easy's comment:

    Hmmm, might be fun to use an "open scoring" option once or twice, just to see how it changes things, but I actually enjoy the fact that scores are usually hidden. I think that one of the things that makes T&E successful, for me, is the fact that there are more things to keep track of than anyone really is able to keep track of. In theory, everyone has perfect information (you could keep track of everyone's score mentally, if you had the acuity). In practice, everyone is acting on partial information. The tension between the two is what makes things interesting. ("Do the other players see and know what I'm trying to do here?")

    For me, anyway.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. And just to give me 4 of the first 5 comments:

    I kept track of the results:

    Tigris round 1 (high score wins):

    Shemp 06
    Easy 05
    Tilli 04
    Luch 04

    Blokus round 1 (low score wins):

    Shemp 07
    Luch 15
    Easy 16
    Kozure 21

    (Kozure was obviously pre-occupied)

    Blokus round 2 (low score wins):

    Luch 09
    Tilli 12
    Shemp 13
    Easy 14

    Tigris round 2 (high score wins):

    Shemp 12
    Easy 10
    Luch 09

    Stick that into your Spreadsheet!

    (Previous post was deleted because the formatting looked like GARBAGE)

  7. Oh, AND, Easy,... That last monument was NOT inconsequential - it provided me with more than the margin of victory in my weakest colour sphere. Not inconsequential at all.

    Do not underestimate the power of Shemp! Do not let your hatred of the Shempezuelans blind you!! Do not let your rage unbalance you!!!

  8. I you implement a navigate by food feature, you will forever be the most geekest. And strange. And in need of useful things to do.

    Oh, and regarding your precious Shempuzualan monument. It WAS mostly inconsequential. The points you got came from the player (luch) who would have received them anyway, if the colors had been spread differently.

    Of course, we are all entitled to our opinions.

    B.T.W. The comment regarding your monument isn't supposed to make sense. Hah!

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. Anonymous7:14 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.