It’s been a busy 36 hours. Last night was fortnightly Friday night Games Night with the guys, and our second in-person meeting since COVID-19 shifted us to virtual back in March. We only had four attendees, but that was a good number as it meant we could all play the same games together. It was also hosted at a friend’s house near where we used to work, and I suggested we get dinner from the Thai place where we often went for lunch. It’s possibly my favourite Thai place in Sydney, and I haven’t been there for ages. I was missing their delicious massamam curry, as well as all the other dishes they make. SO we did that, and it was just as good as I remembered.
I was the third to arrive, and played a few games of Klask first, which the host had recently bought. It’s basically a miniature air-hockey table, with magnetic paddles and a ball and a couple of other little complications. It was amusing fun, and when our fourth arrived we had a short knockout tournament.
The first three of us also played Arboretum while waiting for the fourth. This is a simple looking card game, but the strategies are complex and brainbusting. Naturally, I did poorly.
When we were up to four players, we launched into a game of Treasure Island, a new one for most of us. This was a lot of fun. Each player is a pirate, but one is the infamous Long John Silver, and the other pirates have initially captured him and are now searching for Long John’s buried treasure before he escapes and goes to dig it up himself. Long John’s player mark a secret map with the location of the buried treasure, and then according to the rules of the game is slowly coerced into handing out various clues to the other pirates. The other pirates all race around the island and try to find the treasure by searching in areas that they actually draw on the board using erasable markers. Long John tells them if they’ve found nothing, or perhaps if they’ve found another clue. (Or if they indeed find the treasure, they win instantly!)
Here’s my friend drawing a search circle on the board. You can see a few other circles in various colours, and also lines which mark where pirates have moved, or areas of the board where Long John has given a clue that the treasure is not located. Oh, the other thing about the clues is that Long John is allowed to lie, but only a limited number of times, and you don’t know for sure if he’s telling the truth or lying about any given clue, but you can privately inquire into this – so it ends up with each pirate having a unique set of knowledge about where the treasure might be, which overlaps that of the other pirates. So you can also get hints by watching where the other pirates go to search.
Here’s the board late in the game, and you can see my secret miniature map of the board behind the screen, where I’ve marked areas where I am sure the treasure is not located shaded with hatching, and there are also some areas I’ve marked off where Long John has told me the treasure is not located, but I suspect he may be lying.
As the game progresses, each pirate narrows down the search area. But at some point Long John escapes, and he gets to move directly towards where he knows the treasure is. If he gets to it first, he wins. As it happened in this game, one of the other pirates found the treasure just one turn before Long John was due to escape, so it was a tight game.
As I said, it was a lot of fun. But honestly much of the fun is generated by the interactivity with the map board, moving your pirate around and drawing lines and circles all over the board. There’s a large luck element to the game, as it’s possible for a pirate to luckily search the correct area on the very first move of the game and win instantly (although given the area involved this will happen very rarely). And although each pirate is using logic to narrow down the area, it’s still luck involved when one of them actually searches in the correct place. So it’s a lot of fun, and there is logic and strategy involved, but I think the luck factor dominates in determining who actually wins. You could be the best player in the world at this game and still win only 25% of the time in a four-player game. I’d call this more of a shared experience like a roleplaying game, than a cut-throat competitive game.
After this we played a quick game of Railroad Ink as it was getting too late for another long game. This is a lighter game, but definitely with more skill involved in determining the winner. It was fun too. Pretty much everything we played was a hit tonight, and we all had a great time!
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