March Upstate Board Game Day

Jesse and I went back to The Command Post for another Upstate Board Game Day. Jesse was especially looking forward to this since he missed last month’s game day. I wasn’t sure if I would go to the whole thing this month since I had stayed up really late last night playing sneaker hockey with a church group, but I decided to go ahead and get up in time to get there from the beginning, and I’m glad I did. I got to meet several people I hadn’t before: Melissa, Kevin, Charlie (who I’m almost certain I sat next to in chapel at BJ once). Hannah, and Lydia.

The first game we played was Ra. In this game, you are bidding on different kinds of tiles: artisans, monuments, Nile River tiles, and others. These elements are worth different amounts of points: For example, there are five different types of artisan. If you have no artisans when the points are scored, you lose five points; if you have three different types, you get a bonus of five points; if you have 4, you get ten, and if you have all 5, you get 15 (if I recall correctly). And so there are different strategies of things you might want to bid on.

The thing is, you only get three point tokens to buy these things with, with values that range from 1 to 16. Once you win an auction, you trade that token for the one in the center of the board and place the new token face down. Now you can only win two more auctions. Once you’ve spent all three of your tokens, you’re out for the round (aka “epoch.”). So, since you can’t break the points into smaller units, you can have a situation where you have two low-score tiles and one really high score tile, which means if you really want a particular lot of tiles, you might have to sacrifice a lot for it.

After we played Ra, Jesse and I learned how to play Puerto Rico. In this game, you play the part of a plantation owner in Puerto Rico. You are trying to ship goods–corn, coffee, indigo, sugar, and tobacco–from your farms to the mainland. Each turn, a player takes one “role,” such as a trader, a builder, or the mayor. This affects what all the players can do next. If he takes the builder, for example, everyone can build one building (if they have enough money). Each of these buildings have different effects that give the player that builds it a special bonus, such as additional victory points when they ship out goods or extra colonists when they build plantations. Players take turns playing these different roles until eventually there are either no colonists or no victory points in the pool or until one player’s building area is completely full of buildings. Whoever has the most victory points wins.

This game was fun because there are a ton of different strategies you can try to follow. I think I enjoyed last months Caylus slightly more, but this one was also very good. I might have to pick this one up online.

After that, Jesse and I went to lunch. When we came back, we played Mutiny!, a pirate themed bidding game. This game is not nearly as much fun as the other ones we played today. I won’t bother going into how to play; just avoid this one.

We then played Incan Gold. This game involves hunting treasure in an Incan temple. Each turn, all players decide at the same time whether or not they will leave or stay. If they leave, they keep all of the treasure they have already collected this round, but can’t collect any more until the next one. If they stay, they have to face the next card on the stack. This can be either more treasure (split evenly among the remaining party members) or a trap. If they face the same kind of trap twice in a round (say, two sets of large poisonous spiders or two huge snakes), then they are so scared that they run out of the temple without any of their treasure. So it’s really a “push your luck” game, as the review I linked to says. It’s a light, fun game without a lot of deep strategic thinking. Not a game I would buy, personally, but fun.

Then we played Poison. This is a pretty basic numbers-based card game. There are three pots, into which you play different-colored potion cards. Each of these cards has a point value; if the card you play brings the point total above 13, you have to take the cards in the pot. You can also play poison cards, which count as two cards in the final scoring. The goal is to have the lowest number of cards at the end of the round. This game is sort of fun, but, like Incan Gold, not one I would spend money on.

Finally, we played Wits and Wagers, a combination trivia and betting game. There are seven rounds, in which an obscure question that can be answered in numerical form is asked, such as how many paintings by Picasso were sold for more than one million dollars. Each person writes down their answer on a little dry-erase card. These guesses are arranged from smallest to largest; the one that is closest to the right answer without going over is the correct one (sort of like The Price is Right). But before the correct answer is revealed, all players get to bet on which one is most likely to be correct. Once you find out which one is correct, players who bet on that card are rewarded according to the amount listed on the board. The player with the correct answer also gets a ten point bonus. Whoever has the most points at the end, wins. (I ended up winning with 190 points). This was a lot of fun, and a great party game. It takes about fifteen minutes to play.

So, thanks to everybody for bringing their board games! See you all next month!

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