Saturday, February 03, 2007

Gaming With Grandma - 5

My mum, Grandma to our kids, dropped by this morning for a cup of tea and some games. When, after about an hour, our 1-year-old went off for a nap, Grandma, Maddie (5) and myself sat down at our dining room table to try one of the new games we'd recently picked up.

Packrossli (AKA Packesel) is a charming, little dexterity game where players attempt to balance coloured sticks on a wooden donkey's saddle. This game was produced in Switzerland in 1995 but there are many similar versions world-wide. There is even a version called The Last Straw where you add sticks to a wooden camel's saddle. 'Packrossli' translates loosely from Swiss as 'little pack horse'.

There are 48 coloured sticks comprising 12 each of blue, red, yellow and green. Each player takes a set of coloured sticks and then takes it in turn to add one of the sticks to the saddle of the donkey. If you knock any sticks off you keep them. The first player to have no sticks left wins the game. It's a fairly simple dexterity game where you can either play it safe by placing a stick as close to the centre of balance as you can, or, if you want to play more competitively you can place your stick to make life difficult for the next player. We played the one game which I won.

Maddie adds one of her sticks to the donkey's back
Maddie then left us to go and play some pretend cooking in her room. I grabbed Battle Line from the game cabinet. Grandma and I have played this game before and we both enjoy it. We decided to play two games but not use the tactics cards.

Game 1 saw me being dealt a beauty of an initial 7-card hand and playing first. I had the purple 7,8 & 9 cards which was an automatic wedge. I think in my next couple of draws I picked up the purple 10 as well, giving me an unbeatable purple wedge (straight flush) of 8, 9 & 10. I decided to play this in the centre region to give me the opportunity to work either side for a breakthrough (ie. the 3 adjacent flags victory condition). My plan worked and I went on to win the game 3 flags to 0.

Here's the end game from my side of the table. Note my breakthrough on the left flank where I have captured the necessary three adjacent flags for the win. Note also, the excellent reference sheets we are using. I downloaded these from the BoardGameGeek (BGG) Battle Line files section. I've also laminated them to make them more durable and they're just the right size to fit in the game box. You can click on the image for a closer view.

In Game 2 Grandma went first. My initial hand wasn't as good as in game 1 but I saw a few possibilities. In the early turns I didn't have many high cards to challenge any phalanx (3 of a kind) attacks from Grandma. So I was looking at trying to complete some wedges in my hand while getting rid of some low cards on my right flank. Grandma's response was to match my right flank cards with higher values in an attempt to beat me with higher value phalanx attacks. I took a couple of flags in the centre region hoping to make another breakthrough but as I drew card after card that didn't fit in with my initial plan I started to think that I ought to start playing for an encirclement victory condition (ie. any 5 of the 9 flags). Grandma's momentum continued on my right flank but there was nothing I could do to prevent it. I tried hard to take some flags on my left flank but Grandma ended up achieving a breakthrough to take the win.

Here's the end game from my side. As you can see by clicking on the image, my right flank crumbled before the might of Grandma's forces. She won with 3 flags to my 2.

Maddie then joined Grandma and I for a game of Gulo Gulo. This game has seen a lot of table-time since I bought it back in December 2005. It's another dexterity game where you try to take wooden coloured eggs from a bowl to advance your playing piece. This sort of game can be played together by adults and children with the kids usually having the advantage due to their tiny, nimble fingers. The player who arrives at the last tile first usually wins because they can attempt to search the final stack of five tiles which contains Gulo Junior. I purposely tried to position myself so that I would end up at the final tile before the others and it worked. I found Gulo Junior on the 3rd out of five tiles and was lucky that one of the purple eggs (which you have to get to win after finding Gulo Junior) was near the top and easily within grasp.

Maddie making it look all too easy...

Victory for Dad!
Maddie requested the next game. As I'd beaten her in Gulo Gulo I thought I'd better let her choose. We opened the door of the game cabinet and she pointed and said "I want to play that one Daddy!" I followed her pointed finger and saw she was pointing at Zertz. Cool! I thought to myself as I lent over to pull it out, she wants to learn one of the games of the Gipf Project. Before I could tell her it was only a two-player game she cried "No, the one below it". I raised the Zertz box and my heart sank. Revealed in all its pointless, roll-and-move glory was G.I. Joe - Live The Adventure.

A couple of years ago, I'd picked up G.I. Joe - Live The Adventure at a garage sale. I think I'd only paid a dollar for it. We've played it several times since then so I guess we've got our money's worth out of it. Sadly, if you go to the page for this game at BoardGameGeek you'll note that I am the Number 1 ranked player of most plays of this game. Sadly, for me, I'm also the only player in the world who has ever registered any plays of this game at BoardGameGeek.

Anyway, in this game players take turns at controlling G.I. Joe, moving around the board with the roll of a six-sided die, fighting the evil Cobra soldiers. Combat occurs like this - attacker chooses Shoot High or Shoot Low, defender chooses Jump Up or Hit The Dirt. So every combat is effectively a 50/50 chance. Maddie requested at the beginning of the game to choose the enemy cards in all the combats for Grandma and myself. I don't know how she did it but I would estimate she won 80% of her battles. Against me it was more like 95%! Even she, half-way through the game, and having just shot Daddy for the umpteenth time, shook her head and said with a giggle "I don't know how I'm doing it". Try as I might, in my combats I'd Hit The Dirt and she'd Shoot High; I'd Jump Up and she'd Shoot Low. I even tried choosing my card randomly but she still took me out.

Here's a photo of the end game. Maddie playing purple taking the win with all 6 medals, Grandma playing red came second with 3 medals and me playing blue came last with 0 medals. Maddie was very happy with her win and demanded 'high-fives' off Grandma and myself.

After that debacle, I looked for a game that at least had some strategy, yet was child-friendly. Nobody But Us Chickens fit the bill perfectly. This is a fast-paced, trick-taking card game where players earn points by capturing chickens with their predators (foxes and rats) or protecting chickens with their guard dog. With three players the game is played over three nights, or rounds. I always enjoy this game. You really have to try and outguess the other players. In the past, Maddie used to play her predators quite early in the game and consequently she wouldn't get many points. I think she's been developing her tactics as she seems to consider her cards each turn. Believe it or not, Maddie and I tied for the win on 24 points each with Grandma on 21 points. In the photo below you'll note we use the box to represent the chicken coop.

Ha ha! Me with the only fox card! Look at all those plump, juicy chickens! All mine!

Maddie chose the next game - Pass the Pigs. I have a soft spot for this game. I don't know, there's just something I like about rolling two cute, little, rubber pigs. My tactic for this game was to take and bank my points whenever I reached 10 points on my round. This soon saw me take the lead at 56 points. I seemed to stall there for a while by rolling several consecutive rounds of pig-outs. Grandma and Maddie soon caught up with some really good rolls. Grandma seemed to have a knack for rolling leaning jowlers while Maddie was the razorback and trotter queen.

On a side note, it is interesting to watch Maddie's development as a gamer through this game. When she first started playing Pass the Pigs a year or two ago she was quite timid and would often bank just 2 or 3 points on her round. She now seems to have a better understanding of how far she can push her luck and will often choose to continue rolling for more points. She's still wary of rolling a pig-out but seems to cope quite well emotionally and mentally when she does.

It came to a point where we were all sitting on scores in the mid-80's and I decided to just go for it and break my 'bank-at-10-points' rule. I quickly got to 94 and then for 5 agonising rolls in a row I rolled 5 siders for 1 point each to get me to 99. At 99 I just couldn't bring myself to push my luck any further so stopped. I then had to hope Maddie and Grandma wouldn't overtake me on their next turns. They naturally went for the win but both ended up pigging-out. It came around to me again. I only had to roll a simple sider to get me the win. I picked up the pigs in my trembling hand and rolled. A double razorback for 20 points and the win! Woohoo! I ended up on 119 points to win with Grandma on 83 and Maddie on 82. Here's a picture of my winning roll.

Our final game was Diamant (AKA Incan Gold). Diamant is a quick, fun game of push-your-luck. Players venture down mine shafts by turning up cards from a deck, sharing the gems they find on the way down. Before the next card is turned up, you have the chance to leave the mine and stash your finds, including any gems you get on the way out. But beware, because if two of the same danger cards appear it will mean that all players remaining in the mine will lose their gems.

Diamant had been difficult to get in Australia so I ended up making my own set. I created the mine cards in Microsoft Paint, I bought red and clear glass beads from a dollar store to represent the rubies and diamonds, I used cheap plastic pawns I picked up at a garage sale for the playing pieces, I cut up a small plastic muffin tray for the players chests to hold the gems and I downloaded, printed and laminated the camp and mine entrance board from the BGG Diamant files section. Here's a picture of the game in progress using my home-made components. You can click on the image for a closer view.

Maddie and I ended up tying for the win on 40 points each with Grandma on 27 points. It has been ages since we've played Diamant and it was only after we finished that I realised that we'd played a rule incorrectly. Instead of sharing the gems amongst the players when a card is revealed in the mine, and leaving any left-over gems on the card, we were just leaving all the gems on the card and not sharing them at all. This meant that the first person to leave usually got the majority of the gems. Strange, we've never played it incorrectly before, so I chalk it up to not having played it for a while, and trying to fit in one last, hurried game before Grandma had to leave.

And right after we finished Diamant, Grandma did have to leave. It had been another excellent morning of three generations of our family having fun together playing board games.

No comments: