Saturday, January 13, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 3

My mum (Grandma to our kids) came over to our house today for her regular Saturday morning visit. After a cup of tea and a chat we decided to play some board games. My younger daughter was asleep in her cot, my elder daughter was in the lounge room giggling away at a Goodies DVD, and my wife was out shopping. So, grabbing this time, Grandma and I set up a game of Cartagena.

Cartagena takes as its theme the famous 1672 pirate-led jailbreak from the fortress of Cartagena. Each player has a group of six pirates and the objective is to have all six escape through the tortuous underground passage that connects the fortress to the port, where a boat is waiting for them. Each card bears one of six symbols (dagger, pirate hat, skull, pistol, bottle and key), and you move a pirate forward by playing a card and moving ahead to the matching symbol in the tunnel, leapfrogging over those where another pirate already stands, but the only way to get more cards is to move backwards. It is fun game and we both enjoy it.

We decided to play the Tortuga version where all cards are played face up and you select new cards from a line of 12. In this version you know exactly what cards your opponent has as well as what cards you will get if you move a pirate backwards. I went first in this game. I tried very hard to deny Grandma the opportunity to easily get more cards as well as looking ahead to see if I could grab certain upcoming cards from the line of 12. I ended up winning our first game by getting all of my six pirates in the boat first. Grandma only had three in the boat when we rowed away. Here’s a pic of the end game – I’m green and she’s yellow.

In our second game, again the Tortuga version, Grandma went first. I once again tried never to leave two pirates alone at the end of my turn, thus denying her easy card refills. I once again won with 6 pirates in the boat to one of hers (and we chucked him out of the boat after we'd left the harbour). Here’s a pic of the end game – I’m green and she’s yellow.

After that I pulled out Through the Desert. Through the Desert is designed by the prolific and talented Reiner Knizia. Each player attempts to score the most points by snaking caravan routes through the desert, trying to reach oases and blocking off sections of the desert. I won this game 108 points to 73. Tactics I used included cutting off her green camel caravan from an oasis as well as ensuring I always had the longest of at least 3 of the 5 caravans. Here's a pic of the end game - my caravan leaders are green and Grandma's are red.

By this time, my 11 month-old daughter had awoken from her nap. As she was now sitting on my lap we decided to have a couple of quick games of Hive. Hive, with it's gorgeous bakelite pieces, is virtually baby-proof and is one of my favourite abstracts, being easy to teach and quick to play. Grandma and I have played it before but as it was a while ago I had to explain the rules to her again.

With no setting up to do, the game begins when the first piece is placed down. As the subsequent pieces are placed this forms a pattern that becomes the playing surface (the pieces themselves become the board). Unlike other such games, the pieces are never eliminated and not all have to be played. The object of the game is to totally surround your opponent's queen, whilst at the same time trying to block your opponent from doing likewise to your queen. The player to totally surround his opponent's queen wins the game.

I think it took her a little while to get the hang of the strategy because I won the first game easily. Here's a pic of the end game - I'm black and she's white. The queens are the yellow pieces. As you can see from the photo I've totally surrounded her white queen while my black queen is safe and sound down the bottom of the hive.

Game two of Hive was much closer. I once again took black with Grandma taking white. Grandma had learnt from her previous game that pinning the opposing queen is vital to one's success. I also explained my thinking as I moved my pieces to give her a further insight into the strategy of Hive. I still won but, as you can see from the picture below, I was only just in front at the end.

And there endeth our morning of games. My wife had returned by this time and we all enjoyed a late morning tea of King Island 'Roaring Forties' Blue cheese with crackers. cheese.

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