I spent the weekend at my brother's; one of his boys had a bar-mitzvah. We got to play a few games:
- High Society: First play for me and everyone else. This is a quick auction game from Knizia. You bid on cards from a 16 card deck; the auction ends after the 4th "red" card is revealed from the deck, so the game could be as short as 3 rounds or as long as 15. There are 12 yellow cards: 1 through 10, -5, and "lose a card". The four red cards are three x 2's and one x 1/2. You have a hand full of money to bid with, and the person with the most points in cards at the end wins (add the yellow cards and then apply multipliers, if any). The "lose a card" makes you lose a card you already have or the first one you acquire. For the 13 good cards, top bidder takes the card and pays his bid. For the 3 bad cards, all players pay their bid, except for the first one to pass who gets the card but keeps his money. The twist is that the person with the least money when the game ends is automatically disqualified from winning (money doesn't count among the remaining payers, so you can't bid nothing and win the game, if at least two other people acquired cards).
Ben's theory was to pay a lot of money for a x 2 and a high card (like a 9 or 10) and then sit tight. Unfortunately, he also had to pay to avoid some bad cards, and he tried to bid on a second x 2 at one point. In both of the games we played, he had the least money at the end; in the first game it was simply because the game ended only halfway through the deck. The bar mitzvah boy won the first game, and his younger brother won the second. It's a nice, quick filler (very abstract), but I worry that everyone's cash holdings are trackable; It's not hard to do, but I refused to track it exactly, because it would bog the game down and make it less fun.
- La Isla: First play for me and everyone else. This is a small box Alea game from Stephan Feld. There is a board with island spaces of different terrain types (five types). Surrounded by every two, three, or four terrain spaces are animals that you can collect (five types). You get points for collecting the animals (2, 3, or 4 points, depending on how many people you need to collect them). You have five guys to move around the board. To move a guy to a place, you need two cubes of that terrain type (five types of cubes).
Each round you get three cards (from a deck of 180 cards). Each card can be used in any of three ways, and each round you must use one card in each of the three ways. One card you will add to your bonus abilities; it stays in front of you giving you a bonus ability. You only have three slots for bonus abilities, so every round you have to lose one of your previous abilities and gain the new one. One card you will use for the resource cube it gives, and then toss the card. And one card you will use to raise the value of one of the five animals, giving you points for its current value times the number of animals you have of that type (and also tossing the card). At the end of the game, everyone scores the value of the animal times the number of animals he has of that type, as well as 10 points for each complete set of animals (one of each type).
Nadine warned me that you have to guess and worry about which animal type the other players will be increasing, but I don't think the way she does, which is why she a) takes a lot longer to make her moves than I do, and b) wins these kinds of games more often than I do. I was happy to just play cards and see what happened. I didn't do too poorly, but the bar-mitzvah boy ran away with the game by collecting four animals of one type and scoring 12 and then 16 points several rounds in a row, while we were all making 2 to 5 or so. Even though he had no sets, he still won by a large margin (124 to my 77 to last place who had 61).
I enjoyed the game: it's fairly quick (medium length), plays nicely, and has some competition on the board. My only complaint is too many cards, and the cards are of poor quality (easy to bend and/or rip).
- Speed ("Chinese-style") played with a young cousin. I don't really get this version of the game, and in any case she tended to cheat. :-)