Saturday, March 18, 2006

FAST FAST FAST s l o w FAST (Jungle Speed x3, Power Grid, Poison)

Remove your jewelry, clip your nails... Jungle Speed hit the table this Wednesday and it got violent real quick.

If you don't know, Jungle Speed is a game where each player has a stack of cards they are trying to get rid of. Each card has a symbol on it, and players take turns revealing cards. If the card just flipped matches one another player has in front of them, those two players must quickly reach for the "totem" in the middle of the table... First player to grab it gets to give all his face up cards to the loser.

This is both harder and more interesting than it sounds. Many of the symbols are VERY close to being identical, but aren't. Cards will occasionally turn up which change the parameters of the game (such as colour matching, rather than symbol matching). Some cards simply reward the first player to grab the totem when flipped. The worst part: If you ever mess up and grab the totem when you weren't supposed to... you get EVERY player's face up cards.

Kozure, Luch, Shemp, Sonja and I squared off. We got "twitchy" real fast.

... well MOST players did. In this group, Sonja clearly kept her cool when we could not. The system penalizes far more heavily for grabing the totem in error than it does for being slower than the other player in a duel. Lucky for her, she was both FASTER and MORE ACCURATE than we were. She won all three games handily.

Are we getting slow in our old age?

Anyway, this was unquestionably a pleasant surprise. It was crazy, but lots of fun for what it was. This was Luch's pick from a long list of Sonja's games we had never played. Good call.

Next up was Power Grid. What a change of pace! After such a frantic opener, this one felt (to me) like molasses. This was particularly odd because one of the things I've always liked about this game was that the broken up phases of the game typically keeps things moving and keeps the game from going too long between player's turns. I think it might have to do with number of players... more than 4 might just be too much (I also felt like this the time we played with 6, but never when we've played with 4). On a personal note, I was having a hard time making the calculations for buying the building due to "foggy brain" syndrome, so I was definitely responsible for a good chunk of the slowdown. Oh well!

We played the Germany map. My memory for german cities is extremely limited, so I'll just say that I started in Essen and grew from there. Sonja immediately crowded me while Luch started in the North and Kozure/ Shemp went to the South. Over the course of the game, I tried to lay back and go for the end run with a large amount of cash, but I was completely unable to pull it off. Due to the pressure by Sonja, I constantly had to spend to break out of possible dead ends. I wasn't generating the income I needed, and a few of my plant purchases were "unwise". Luch was a green machine, but not expanding too fast in the North. Shemp tried to block off the South while Kozure managed to spread himself in an arc across much of the board. Sonja found herself on the last turn with insufficient power generation to compete for the win, and I ran out of cash to build enough buildings. It came down to cash on hand between Shemp and Kozure.... Shemp had more.

We finished up with Knizia's Poison since we didn't have enough time for Tower of Babel or the Jyhad CCG.

This is an "ultralight" game. It takes only a few minutes to play, is extremely simple and is quite fun for what it is. It's another Knizia numbers manipulation game with a thin theme applied (shades of High Society and Lost Cities). Players have a hand of cards with values from 1 to 7, in three colours. There are three pots (huge unnecessary cardboard pictures of cauldrons), one for each colour. In turn, players play a card into one of the pots. If the sum total of the cards in the pot is over 13, it boils over and the player takes all the cards in the pot. Additionally, there are "poison" cards which are wild and always valued at 4. Once all cards are played, each player gets 1 point per colour card they accumulated, and 2 for each "poison".

Of course, there's a Knizia twist.

Wait for it...

If you are the player with the MOST cards of a particular colour, you have developed an immunity to it and don't have to score those cards!

I had a good time with this one. There is some skill in hand management and observation of which colours have been taken by who, but it's mostly fast and easy. Sonja has a knack for picking fun "light" games (her record so far, For Sale!, Jungle Speed and Poison, has been very good). A very nice closer for the evening (for the record, she won this game after two hands with a score of 2. I was a close second with 4, and the others were much higher)

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