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SNOB session report! (was Re: Reminder - SNOB)

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  • DougOrleans
    ... Well, I was there despite the holiday, so I guess it s up to me to write the session report... This is my first crack at session report writing, so bear
    Message 1 of 3 , Sep 4, 2002
      --- In Unity_Games@y..., "Matthew Gray" <matthew@g...> wrote:
      > I won't be there because of the holiday.

      Well, I was there despite the holiday, so I guess it's up to me to
      write the session report... This is my first crack at session report
      writing, so bear with me.

      SNOB (Slightly North Of Boston)
      Bi-weekly open gaming at Your Move Games in Davis Square
      Somerville, MA, USA
      Sept. 2nd (Labor Day), 2002

      In attendance: Doug Orleans, Marcy Levey, Greg Lam
      Games played: Royalty (x2), Greg's prototype game (x2), Warp 6.

      I met Marcy there around 7:30, having told her about SNOB not long
      after I first found out about it myself. We were disappointed to be
      the only ones there, but stuck around anyway because I had arranged to
      meet Greg there later in the evening, so I could buy some of his
      company's games (http://www.pair-of-dice.com/) without having to pay
      for shipping...

      ROYALTY (http://www.usgamesinc.com/viewProduct.cfm?Product_ID=669)

      We started off with Royalty, a word card game from US Games Systems
      (who also make Wizard). As a hardcore Scrabble fan, I have been on
      the lookout for other good word games, and this is my favorite word
      card game that I've found so far, although it's still far from
      Scrabble. Each card has one letter and is either red or black; there
      are also two knaves, which can substitute for any letter and either
      color. Each player has a hand of 7 cards (is it a coincidence that
      all these games have hand sizes of 7, like Scrabble?). On your turn,
      you may do one of these five things: meld, capture, meld AND capture,
      exchange, or pass.

      A meld involves forming a word from your hand with 2 or more letters
      (the rules allow one-letter words, but that seems silly to me) and
      laying it in front of you. Each card has an even-numbered value, up
      to 10 for JQXZ (knaves are 0, like blanks in Scrabble), and your score
      for the meld is the sum of the card values in the word. If the cards
      are all the same color, though, and the word is 4 letters or longer,
      the sum is doubled. The first meld of the game is also doubled, and
      is quadrupled if it's 5 letters or longer and all the same color.

      A capture involves picking up a word in front of another player,
      rearranging the cards, adding one or more cards from your hand to form
      a new word, and laying it in front of you. (Note that a knave card
      may be used as a different letter and/or color than it was in the
      captured word!) The new word must not have a related meaning to the
      captured word; for example, EAR can become ARE or BEARS or CARED or
      ZEBRA, but could not become EARS, EARRING, or HEAR (these examples all
      come from the rules). It's kind of a judgement call about whether or
      not a word has a related meaning; I would probably not object to
      EARRING or HEAR, only disallowing plurals, verb tense shifts, and the
      like, but I guess that's up to the group to decide. (I think I would
      actually prefer getting rid of this restriction altogether-- sure,
      it's easy to capture by adding an S, but that just means S's are
      valuable cards to hang onto.) The score for the capture is the sum of
      the values in the entire new word; in addition, if you added 4 or more
      cards from your hand, and they were all the same color (regardless of
      the color of the cards captured), the whole word score is doubled.

      You can (and usually should) do both a meld and a capture in a turn.
      If you use all seven of your cards in the turn, your entire turn score
      is doubled (this is cumulative with the color-related doubling rules).

      Finally, like Scrabble, instead of playing words you can exchange to
      get new cards; unlike Scrabble, however, you can only exchange your
      entire hand, and you shuffle your cards into the deck before drawing,
      so you might get some of the cards back. You can also choose to
      simply pass and do nothing.

      At the beginning of your turn, any words still in front of you from
      the previous turn get removed and put into your "domain" pile, face
      down. These cards are worth one point each at the end of the game;
      I've never seen this make a difference in the winner, because
      generally if you have a big domain pile it means you made a lot of
      hard-to-capture words, which would have scored well for you during the
      play of the game. (I thought about being perverse and making your
      domain pile count negative, but I think that might disincentivize
      captures too much.)

      At the end of your turn, you replenish your hand up to 7 cards. The
      game ends when the deck has run out and either someone uses all his
      cards, in which case he gets the card values of everyone else's hands
      (which also go into the going-out player's domain), or when everyone
      passes, in which case everyone subtracts the card values of their own
      hands (and remove a corresponding number of cards from their domains).

      Greg showed up halfway through our game (I won, having used my entire
      hand a couple times, and getting lucky at the end holding a ten-point
      Z card but drawing JAZ), and wanted to try it out, so the three of us
      played again (I won this game also). It's a fine game with 2 players,
      but unlike most of the other word games I've played (including
      Scrabble) I think it's actually even better with more than two
      players, because there are more words available to be captured on your
      turn (up to N for an N-player game). Although, with more than 4
      players, each player might not get enough turns to balance out their
      card drawing luck, and the downtime between turns might be too much--
      not only are there more players, but each one has more words to try to
      anagram. Three players might actually be the optimum number, although
      I haven't yet played it with more.


      After that, I asked Greg if we could play one of the games he was
      developing that I helped playtest the previous week. I don't know how
      much detail he would want me to give out about the game, but it's
      about building a maze which some marbles traverse (not real marbles,
      but tokens representing marbles-- it's not a dexterity game). I
      really like this game, despite its high levels of chaos and
      randomness; there are opportunities for clever plays, and a smidgen of
      longer-term strategy. Besides that, though, I just love maze games.

      The three of us played one game that turned out to end sooner than
      usual, so we tried it again, which ended up being a lot longer.
      Mostly this was due to the way the random elements turned up, but we
      had also tweaked one rule in between which gave players a little more
      control and thus more to think about on their turns. Still, I think
      it was less than an hour of good crazy fun. Even though Greg only
      started developing the game a few weeks ago, I think it's just a few
      more tweaks away from being ready to be published, although some of
      the rules will be complicated to write up clearly. I'm hoping it
      comes out soon, though, because I think it has the potential to be
      quite popular.

      WARP 6 (http://pair-of-dice.com/games/warp6.html)

      We finished up the night with one of the games I bought from Greg,
      Warp 6. The players each have a set of 6 dice (3 4-sided, 2 6-sided,
      1 8-sided) that serve as tokens which they are trying to race towards
      the center of a spiral board (the dice represent ships and the center
      is a wormhole). Players start by rolling all their dice, and then
      take turns placing them on the outer edge of the spiral, starting at
      the end and working inward. After that, each turn consists of either
      moving a die a number of spaces ahead along the spiral equal to its
      face value, or increasing or decreasing a die's face value by one. If
      the die lands on another die, it gets bumped up to a space on the next
      inner ring of the spiral and gets re-rolled; if that space is also
      occupied, it keeps bumping up to the next inner ring until there's an
      empty space available. When dice reach the middle (which does not
      require landing on it exactly), they are removed from play; the first
      player to have 4 of his 6 reach the middle wins.

      That's the entire game-- it's quite simple, yet it yields some subtle
      strategies and tactics, mainly focused on arranging to get your dice
      to bump each other up the rings, rather than going the long way around
      the spiral. It feels a lot like racing games that involve drafting
      and teams of racers, especially Six Day Race (6 Tage Rennen) and
      Breaking Away: if you can find the right place in a pack, you can get
      a big boost, but if you're too far ahead or too far behind, you get
      stranded and have to move relatively slowly. I like those two racing
      games a lot, although they can be a bit dry or repetitive; I suspect
      this one is the same, although it's rather shorter than either of
      those two so it's not that big a problem. There's also no secret
      information, so it's possible to look further ahead, although the
      random element (which is quite small for a game with this many dice!)
      prevents analysis paralysis. One interesting twist is that in most
      team-racing games, early finishers earn more money, but in Warp 6 it
      doesn't matter when your first three dice get to the middle; this
      means you are better off keeping your dice (or at least four of them)
      together, working off each other, rather than having one or two sprint
      to the middle early.

      Greg beat Marcy and I handily, since he was able to look a bit further
      ahead, and knew some tricks, such as judicious use of the
      increase/decrease option to set up harmonic convergences in his team
      of dice... Also, the original placement is actually fairly important,
      and neither of us really knew how best to do that part. I think it's
      a good sign when an inventor of the game wins over newbies!

      It was a fun night. I also came home with a big bag of Pair Of Dice
      games, plus Alpha Blitz (yet another word card game), Freight Train
      (an Alan Moon game that is an earlier version of the well-regarded
      Reibach & Co/Get The Goods), and four extra stacks of Icehouse pieces
      to complement my basic set: purple, colorless, and opaque black and

      Maybe there will be more people there in two weeks?

    • Dave Bernazzani
      ... Nice report Doug! We were commenting Monday at SSG that we were bummed that our northern counterparts were not meeting as scheduled (since it looked like
      Message 2 of 3 , Sep 4, 2002
        "DougOrleans" <dougo@...> wrote:

        >This is my first crack at session report
        >writing, so bear with me.
        >SNOB (Slightly North Of Boston)

        Nice report Doug! We were commenting Monday at SSG that we were
        bummed that our northern counterparts were not meeting as
        scheduled (since it looked like it might not happen due to the
        holiday). Glad to see some gaming did take place!

        Dave Bernazzani
        http://www.gis.net/~dber (South Shore Gamers)
      • Richard Spoonts
        Almost all of the SNOB regulars were unable to attend this week because of the holiday. You can almost certainly expect more people at the next session.
        Message 3 of 3 , Sep 4, 2002
          Almost all of the SNOB "regulars" were unable to
          attend this week because of the holiday. You can
          almost certainly expect more people at the next


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