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The Slytherin Dungeons
Prof. Cody Lewis

Today I Played...

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This one requires brief backstory. Every single time that I played Splendor with my brother, he has won. He always brags that he is still undefeated in Splendor.

Yesterday, my mom invited me over to celebrate the 4th of July. She wanted to play mahjong, but only three people wanted to play and you need four. So, I suggested that we could play Splendor because you can play Splendor with three people. It was the least complicated of the board games that I brought with me. My mom isn't the most strategic person, but she picked up how to play Splendor in a few games. In fact, she won a game! Yes, that means my brother is no longer undefeated in Splendor! After dinner, we also got my dad to play. My mom won another game because I reserved the card that my brother was going after. For the next game, my brother switched seats with my dad so that I didn't go before him anymore. None of my strategies panned out, but it was a fun time. 

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Yesterday I went ten miles south to a park on the river for a picnic with some of my friends from trivia, where we could watch the fireworks in the evening.  But before the fireworks we had the chance to play three games!

 

First we played two rounds of Secret Hitler, a Mafia-esque game set in Weimar Republic-era Germany.  The objective for the majority of the players is to get enough "liberal" policies passed to maintain a liberal government... but a handful of players secretly are working to establish fascist policies and put the "Hitler" player in power instead!  Of course, the identity of the "Hitler" player is secret - so that player may try to advance liberal policies for a while to alleviate suspicion!  I enjoyed that game because of the pace and intrigue (though it's not fun when everyone keeps on voting "Nein!"/"No!" on the idea of you holding power ;))

Then we played two rounds of Codenames, exactly as it has been played on IRC except this time with physical cards.  The second round, I was my team's Spymaster... but sadly, without the stand for the card, I had initially thought the orientation for the card was 90 degrees different from what it actually was.  Fortunately, my opponent went first in giving clues, not me - allowing me to clue up the proper words when it got to my turn!  My team ended up winning, when we finally realized - on our second chance - that my clue for "gym" referred to "track" and "tag" (and thankfully not "nut", which was the insta-lose word).

Finally we played a round of 7 Wonders, which was the first time I played that game.  There were a few other new players as well, who essentially had their more experienced friends - nominally their opponents - moving for them!  I mostly caught on fairly quickly (though I actually avoided building any stage of the wonder) and had fun with one small exception... the game can really drag on when one or two players regularly take several minutes to choose which card to play!  And I finished right in the middle:  tied for 4th out of 7.

 

 

 

 

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I got to play Scythe for the first time last weekend. Even though it was designed by the same guy behind Viticulture (which is one of my favourite games), I’d been reluctant to give it a try due to the area control mechanic. Fortunately though, it’s a more minor mechanic (although this does depend on who you play with) — in the 2+ hours we played, I only clashed with an opponent 3 times. There was a lot of careful planning involved as each player had a predefined order of actions (you could choose your first action, but then you’d have to cycle through the remaining actions on your player board before you could take that action again). I didn’t optimise my turns early on, as I was still getting the hang of the game — but in spite of that, I was the first player to put down a star (you need 6 to win) and eventually ended up tying for second place.

We had 8 players so we were able to play several rounds of Captain Sonar. While it can be played at smaller player counts, it’s always best playing with the maximum player count as that way all the roles get filled and it makes for a much more interesting game.

We played Junk Art soon afterwards. It’s a fairly simple game at first glance, but the actual act of stacking the various pieces on top of each other without having the structure topple over can be a challenge. We had a lot of laughs throughout the game.

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I was able to attend a boardgames meetup while I was away and got to try out two new games.

We played Letters to Whitechapel, which I've always been curious about. While I'm not overly a fan of hidden movement games, it's refreshing to play them every now and then. It took us roughly 3 hours to play 3 (out of 4) rounds. There was a lot of debating in my group as to where each person should move next, as just about everyone had a different idea.

Just as the second round ended, by chance we discovered Jack's hideout was in a completely different direction to where we first thought. Most of our team were grouped around a particular area as we were all but convinced Jack's location was near there. The police chief of that round had instructed one of our team members to make their way in the opposite direction in preparation for the following round, and on her way there, she was able to find one of the spots where Jack had been. We were able to narrow down his location during the third round, but he was still able to slip past us.

He indicated that he'd be able to win the fourth round automatically, as his intended starting location for that round was only two spots away from his hideout, and none of us would be able to reach him in time. Overall it was an intriguing game. There were times towards the end especially, where I just wanted to get on with it, while the others were debating.

We ended off the evening with several rounds of Good Cop Bad Cop. It was a bluffing game with some elements of social deduction and hidden roles (although people's possible affiliation were revealed throughout the course of the game). What I really liked about this game is that everyone had an opportunity to influence the game through the use of equipment cards — rather than only the most vocal players. I'm considering trying to get hold of it as it could be a good fit for my regular boardgaming group (almost every week we play Secret Voldemort without fail — and occasionally Bang! The Dice Game too).

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I had the opportunity to play Azul recently, and it's easy to see why this game won the 2018 Spiel des Jahres (Game of the Year) award. I'd been wary of the game, because I'd often seen it compared to Sagrada, which is after Santorini, is my favourite abstract game. It took a while to get the hang of optimising one's moves to maximise scoring, but I really enjoyed it. Unlike Sagrada, Azul has more of a 'take that' mechanic, which I do tend to like when it doesn't form the basis of the game.

I also had the chance to play Hanabi. It's probably my favourite cooperative game to date as everyone works together, rather than only one person calling the shots and others going along with it. It was tense, but a lot of fun. We managed to get a score of 18, which meant we had an "excellent" fireworks display.

I've been curious about Hardback ever since I first heard about it (and its predecessor Paperback) as it's a word game combined with dec-building as well as push-your-luck elements. I tended to play rather cautiously, only drawing 1-3 extra cards on a turn whenever I had ink bottles to spend -- whereas someone else in our group would draw as many as 5 extra cards. In his case it really paid off as he won with roughly 30 points to spare. I really enjoyed it and I'm tempted to get a copy of it (in spite of already owning several deck-builders).

I played the 2016 version of Citadels for the first time. Back when I first joined this boardgames group, we played the original game quite often, so it was interesting to see how the two versions compared. While the core mechanics were the same, the roles were quite different. Unfortunately, my role got eliminated in the first round (thanks to the Assassin) and all my gold stolen in the second (thanks to the Spy) so I had a hard time catching up to everyone else, but I really enjoyed it.

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