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[SR] CBGBs, 11/30: Poison, Showmanager, Shadows Over Camelot, I'm the Boss, Razzia

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  • W. Eric Martin
    The 6am Gamers list was buzzing with activity before the CBGBs session. We were all set to play Ra, Taj Mahal, and Kreta in some order or another -- then we
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 3, 2005
      The 6am Gamers list was buzzing with activity before the CBGBs session.
      We were all set to play Ra, Taj Mahal, and Kreta in some order or
      another -- then we had six gamers on hand (Adam, Jim, Dave, Ray, Max,
      Eric), which scotched those plans and brought other games to the table.


      While waiting for Max to arrive, five of us played Adam's copy of
      Poison. A first play for everyone but Adam, and we all marveled at the
      immense cauldrons. Really, what was Playroom thinking?

      Gameplay was sweet and Reinerlicious -- that is, utterly simple, yet
      juicy enough to make the game interesting.

      Ray drank batch after batch of poison in the first two rounds, soaring
      to 18 while the rest of us had 9 or less. Max showed up at this point,
      and we averaged the scores to give him a total of 9, then dealt him in
      for four more rounds. He took 4, 0, and 0 in the next three rounds,
      edgeing into the lead briefly, but then I aced the final round while
      everyone else took at least a handful of points.


      I had talked up Showmanager several times in the past, so with six on
      hand, this was a natural. Max seemed amused by all the actors and their
      silly names, while the rest of us focused on number-crunching and money

      Adam managed two first-place finishes in the second and third most
      valuable cities, which give him an easy victory. One of those scores
      came at my expense as he switched plays in front of me to keep several
      beefy cards out of my hands. Everyone seemed to budget their plays
      fairly well for first-time players, even Adam with his rampant

      Shadows Over Camelot (report from Max with my added comments)

      > Players:
      > Dave (King Arthur)
      > Eric (Sir Palamedes)
      > Ray (Sir Tristan)
      > James (Sir Percival)
      > Adam (Sir Gahalad)
      > Max (me-- Sir Kay, and Traitor)
      > After a spirited game of Showmanager, we were looking for another
      > game that could play 6. Even with Eric's fabled "Hall of Games",
      > this proved somewhat limiting. We ended up going for Shadows Over
      > Camelot, which I had never played-- but had heard enough positive
      > things about to be cautiously enthusiastic.

      I really need to organize the game wall better as I overlooked several
      nice choices for six, including Medici, Power Grid, and Around the World
      in 80 Days. Anyway...

      > Woe that I could play this one again for the first time.
      > Eric launched us through the rules, and as per his usual, did a
      > bang-up job. Nonetheless, it seemed to be quite a fiddly game, which
      > lots of little rules and sub-rules, and while I got the jist of it, I
      > figured I'd pick the rest of it up on-the-fly.
      > I wouldn't.
      > We passed out cards, and I was Sir Kay, Seneschal to King Arthur. I
      > asked the group what the word Seneschal meant and no one knew. From
      > my perspective, this would pretty much set the tone of the rest of
      > the game.
      > The issue was, I had also gotten the traitor card. If you get the
      > traitor card, and you don't know what you should be doing as the
      > traitor, you are in trouble. Because you can't ask. Saying
      > something along the lines of "hypothetically speaking, if I were the
      > traitor, is it better to get revealed early or late?" isn't going to
      > cut it. But that's where I was. My questions quickly shifted from
      > "how do I play?" to "how do I play and what should I be doing?"
      > These were perhaps the same questions that Ray, the other new player
      > had, but he could watch the other loyalists and learn. No such luck
      > for Kay.
      > And I had lots of mechanics questions left-- it's just that now they
      > were _evil_ mechanics. What was the penalty again for guessing the
      > wrong traitor? Can _I_ accuse someone of being the traitor, if I'm
      > the traitor myself? Even simple things proved relatively thorny--
      > half of the table I couldn't see very well, and I wanted to ask Adam
      > a question like, "Hey, what's the penalty for losing that quest over
      > there?" A good, reasonable question, in any other game, but here, as
      > the traitor, not so much. So many questions, forever lost into
      > darkness--- not unlike the Holy Grail, or not unlike the Holy Grail
      > were the traitor someone other than me.

      So I really didn't do as good a rules explanation as Max claims. I
      should have stressed the role of the traitor more, focusing on how the
      traitor wants to sort of help the group but in the most minimal way

      Sitting around at Camelot drawing cards, as Max did, is a good start
      because you suck up resources without helping to complete any quests.
      Throwing away good cards at Excalibur is another winner because no one
      sees the cards discarded. Fighting the black knight or the Lancelot duel
      with crappy pairs or full houses -- as Dave, Max and I all did with 3s
      and 1s -- works, too. Trying to fight catapaults with iffy fight cards,
      as Adam did with a 5 or 6 is another possibility. Jumping from quest to
      quest as Ray did wastes turns without doing anything productive. You can
      also insist on placing siege engines or drawing cards instead of losing

      As you can see from my example, all of us did things that looked a bit
      shaky and potentially traitorous, especially Jim. I can't remember what
      he did, but Adam and I were suspicious of him the entire game. (Or maybe
      it was just me.)

      > The game started off with a lot of folks deciding to reel Excaliber
      > in (it seemed to be floating in an innertube), whilst Eric battled
      > the black knight, and Adam did some kind of battle against some sort
      > of grunt people that I never did quite process. (I did come out and
      > ask that, at one point. Who are these plastic army men, and how did
      > they end up on the board?)

      Again, poor explanation on my part.

      > Not knowing what to do, I decided to more or less do nothing. I just
      > hung around and drew cards in Camelot. Perhaps I was hoping that
      > someone would unwisely ask questions about what the traitor ought to
      > be doing.
      > That didn't happen.
      > Eric was soundly trounced by the Black Knight, and someone else said
      > that winning Excalibur too early was bad. Was it bad? I'm not
      > exactly sure that it was, but having no plan of my own, I decided to
      > "wickedly" help the knights by giving them Excalibur early on.

      Winning Excalibur quickly can be bad because then the siege engines pile
      up much more quickly. We skirted up to ten at a few points, but then
      pulled back from the abyss.

      > Meanwhile, there were an enormous amount of accusations. These
      > weren't 'official' accusations, though. Just name-calling. The
      > experienced players (of which there were four) would often tell
      > people what to do, and this would produce consternation. "Don't do
      > what he tells you to do, he's the traitor!" were the kinds of
      > dialogues that were produced. No one ever really seemed to suggest
      > that I wasn't loyal. I think many player's perceptions were that I
      > was too confused and/or bored-looking to be the traitor. Perhaps
      > they were right. I do think that rules-guru Eric pegged me as the
      > traitor fairly early on (am I right?) because he seemed particularly
      > unhelpful to me, in terms of making even oblique suggestions as to
      > exactly what the traitor's strategy should be.

      I had no clue. I was pegging Ray or Jim, due to either Ray's initial
      jumping around (as Jason did during his time as traitor) or Jim due to
      things I can't remember.

      > I was a little listless. Mainly I was finding that my role as
      > traitor was nebulous and kind of dull. Occasionally someone would
      > play a card that the other players would deem 'devastating' had it
      > been played by the traitor, but I did not have any of those cards. I
      > had lots of helpful cards, like presents for the other knights, or
      > healing, or Merlin. (Can I use Merlin in any meaningful way as the
      > Traitor, I wondered, but could not ask.) It seemed that the best
      > course of action was just not to play any of these cards.

      You can use a Merlin to remove any black card last played on a quest, so
      you could have spent yours on the black knight quest to remove a card,
      pretending that you wanted to provide a bigger safety net after what
      happened to me. Or you could have spent it to remove a despair card on
      the grail track. Jim kept insisting that we didn't need to do that,
      which was one reason he seemed shady.

      > Which I didn't. For a long while.
      > Eventually, however, I got jealous. Everyone else seemed to be
      > running around, _doing_ things, and here I was not playing cards.
      > Was this a valid strategy? I certainly don't know. But it was an
      > extremely uninteresting one.
      > Ennui began to set in, and I just decided, by God, I'm going to use
      > some of these cards. I justified it by saying, 'hey-- no one will
      > suspect me of being the traitor if I play these helpful cards and win
      > a quest or two". But this was a pretty meager justification, even at
      > the time. On some level I said, to hell with it-- I wanted to play a
      > cooperative game, and by god, I'm going to be co-operative.
      > Bizarrely, this is when people began suggesting that I was the
      > traitor. I was a little mystified by the accusation, because at this
      > point I had kind of given up on the whole traitor concept. Still, I
      > kept playing in a force-of-good kind of way. I liked it. It was
      > fun. I had a hand full of useful cards, and I had a clear idea of
      > what I should be doing. Moreover, I could even ask for advice-- real
      > advice-- as opposed to fake questions I occasionally would ask
      > earlier, since I couldn't broach my real ones.
      > Easily the most enjoyable turns of the game.

      Shadows Over Camelot is somewhat strange in that each turn of yours
      should take no more than 15-30 seconds. If you're on a quest, you
      probably already know which card you're going to play. The choice of
      evil action is also usually clear, but not always. With each turn adding
      little to the final result, you need to keep playing quickly.

      Your helpful actions had me convinced that you were loyal, so I had no clue.

      > Eventually, though, I ended up in a position where i felt like I had
      > to do something genuinely evil, in large part, because I felt guilty
      > about all the good I had done. I knew I would be revealed, but I was
      > very optimistic about it, hoping that this would give me more things
      > to do. I didn't really know, however, because I couldn't, you know,
      > _turn over the card and read the traitor side_ in the middle of the
      > game.
      > Anyway, I made a deal for lots of battle cards, threw a siege engine
      > on the table, and proceded to play heroism on a quest we were sure to
      > lose. This, of course, got me called right out.
      > Being revealed turned out to be awfully disappointing, but there you
      > go. The game piddled on for only few turns after that and the side
      > of good won the day, hands down, with a mere two black swords on the
      > table, neither of which I had anything to do with.
      > Worst. Betrayal. Ever.

      As Jim mentioned, the final score was actually 7-5, so the forces of
      good just barely won. If you had also accused someone on your turn, one
      white sword would have turned black, which would have forced us to stop
      drawing evil cards because we couldn't have accepted losing the dragon
      quest. Four of us were down to one life, so I think we would have had to
      sacrifice ourselves to play grail cards without risking evil cards or a
      siege engine triumph.

      > Obviously, I was kind of underwhelmed by the game, but what can I
      > say? I should have asked a lot of questions about the traitor before
      > loyalty cards were dealt out, but I didn't process that I wouldn't be
      > able to realistically ask questions later on. Still I'd try it
      > again; in some ways, I felt like I didn't play at all. What would
      > my impression of "Modern Art" or "El Grande" been, for example, if
      > after the initial rules explanation, I was forbidden from asking any
      > questions about the game? Probably not that hot.

      A much closer finish than you realized, but I should have explained the
      accusation process better, along with other aspects of the game. Sorry
      about that.

      On another note, I'll suggest the following for loyalty cards that next
      time I play with newbies. Every new player will be loyal automatically.
      All players with prior experience (three in our game: Jim, Adam, Eric)
      will draw from a pile of cards that contains one loyal card for each
      player and the traitor.

      Thus every new player can ask anything and not worry about playing the
      traitor, which is a tough role. Every experienced has the chance of
      being the traitor, but there's also a chance that the game will have no
      traitor at all, making accusations a dangerous risk since they can
      collectively flip many swords.

      This would have been a much better idea, but us old pros were all eager
      for a game with a definite traitor and overlooked the problems that a
      new player can have as traitor.

      I'm The Boss

      Someone else was interested in playing this, so I went through the
      rules, giving no strategy hints whatsoever. Thus began the strangest
      game of I'm The Boss I've ever played. The six of us completed five
      deals by the time each of us had had a turn. My character was stolen on
      the third turn (the second attempted deal), and without a stop card,
      which I had burned earlier to protect my deal, I had nothing to do but
      pet the cat and refill the chips and dip bowls.

      Finally I spent a few turns drawing cards, gaining enough investors only
      on the third draw to reclaim a character. I earned my first money on the
      tenth deal(!), then scored a few million more on the next two to bring
      me into fifth place. I'm not sure how Jim scored lower than me, but
      there were a lot of substitute Sacks showing up.

      Dave was pegged as the leader, which is never a good thing as no one
      deals with you. Max made a sweet deal on #12, scoring $12 million and
      then rolling to end the game. He ended up an easy winner.

      Razzia (Dorra)

      With the clock nearing 11:30, I chose a few fillers, and we ended up
      playing cops and robbers. I chose wrong again and again, ending up with
      nothing instead of a few low-valued chips. Jim won the red club at least
      three times in a row and slowly accumulated an enormous pile. Dave won a
      roll-off for more than $100,000, yet that still wasn't enough as Jim
      edged Adam for the win.

      With the hour past midnight, everyone suddenly turned into pumpkins and
      rolled home.

      Next week we're at Jim's place in Strafford, and the current plan is for
      Game of Thrones, but we need five or six in attendance. So far we have
      Jim, Alex, and Eric with Ray, Brett, and Joe as possibilities. RSVP if
      you're in, so we'll know whether this game will happen!

      Game of Throne neophytes can download a PDF of the rules at the Fantasy
      Flight website. I'll make sure I'm ready to teach them in case no one
      else wants to, but it would be great if everyone looked at them ahead of
      time since they're somewhat long.


      W. Eric Martin - TwoWriters.net
      "And neither mathematics nor death ever makes a mistake." - Yevgeny Zamyatin
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