Friday, November 23, 2007

Thankgiving gaming

For Thanksgiving, I took my family over to spend the day at my sister's house with a bunch of family. Once we had settled down and there seemed to be enough people sitting around, I asked if anyone wanted to play a game. No one seemed all that eager at the time except for my brother-in-law. So, I decided it would be fun to teach him San Juan in a 2-player setting.

We sat down and I began explaining the game when my sister (wife of my bro-in-law) pulled up a chair. I asked her if she'd like to play, and she decided to join in, making it a 3-player game.

My sister is what I would consider to be a non-gamer. My brother-in-law is a gamer who is good at strategizing in games. He's usually willing to play, but he tends to brain-burn with his decisions. The games they have played and liked are Ticket to Ride and Bohnanza.

It was an interesting session. I was fully enjoying it, as always. The other two seemed to be distracted with other conversations and such, which kept them from fully engaging. There were a few times when someone would ask, "Okay, what just happened? Is it my turn?" NGS (non-gamer sister) and CGB (casual gamer bro-in-law) didn't take long to grasp what was going on. After a few rounds they understood how each role worked. They asked me questions all throughout the game about what they should do, and what would be a good move. I helped as much as I could. San Juan can certainly bring lots of questions on a first play, with the huge variety of buildings and abilities.

CGB was the first to complete 12 buildings. I had 11 and NGS had 10. I was the only one who had built more than one 6-building (Guild Hall and City Hall). After scoring standard victory points and chapels, CGB was in the lead. When we counted 6-buildings, I pushed ahead. NGS was the only one with a palace, but she was far enough behind that it didn't help her. I came out with a 1-point lead, ahead of CGB.

I think the game felt a bit heavy to them, especially while trying to stay involved in the surrounding conversations. The experience taught me that you really have to gauge the kind of gamers you are planning to teach, and what their current ability to focus is at that time. To really enjoy a game, you have to be able to focus. The heavier the game, the more focus required, unless you're experienced at that particular game. A party game would have been much more appropriate at the time, I think.

We didn't get back to gaming until after dark, when one of the three little children had gone to bed and everyone had polished off their pie. This time around, everyone agreed to give Winner's Circle a go.

Everyone was somewhat tired at this point, so Winner's Circle fit the bill perfectly. The game is so easy to teach and has very few rules. In essence, "Place bets. Roll die. Move horse." Players this time were my two party-gamer parents (not so much into strategy games), NGS, and my gamer wife. Everyone, including my dad, who can always think of something better to do than play games, understood how the game worked quickly. My dad even won the first race with well-placed bets and lucky rolls.

The second race found my mom and me on some of the same horses, as we had been in the first race. This time, we managed to pull ahead, and now my mom was in the lead, so she started the third race. Everyone who chanced being the only better on a horse found out how risky that is, never getting their horses past the finish line. In this last race, my mom and I were on a couple of the same horses again. The rolls came up lucky for us and my mom had a triumphant win with $2000. I was second place.

This was NGS's first play of Winner's Circle. She commented that it was added to her list of games she liked playing from our collection. For those of you who have similar family or friends, take note: Ticket to Ride, Bohnanza, Winner's Circle. Anything I can get my sister to request is a good gateway game.

I was happy to have fit two games into the day, considering how many people there were, with little kids running around, and much food preparation taking place. It was a day of blessings as we thought about how thankful we were for God's rich blessings in our lives. It was a great Thanksgiving.

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