The contenders for the first game-off were chosen to be Carcassonne and Dominion. Two classic games in their own right that are massively different in just about all respects. We had a free afternoon, so cleared the table, lined up drinks and got started with Carcassonne…
We haven’t played Carcassonne many times with the full rules and not for some time now, as we have been through quite a lot of new games over the last few months. So it was nice to get this old favourite out again and start laying tiles. As usual, the only rule I really have for myself is to not deliberately play to cause problems for Miss B. Other than that, I try not to make dumb moves. This time, I wished I was playing harder. For the first time, Miss B made a really good play of a farmer which, combined with having a pretty good run of the tiles throughout, meant that she solidly and comprehensively beat me. Smiles and high-fives all around. This is the sort of a buzz that I always hoped for when we started playing these games, and it is great when it works out right.
After a short break we cracked out Dominion and Miss B set to choosing the kingdom cards. Her selections seemed pretty reasonable, though most of them were four-cost cards, which I felt might restrict the game. I suggested she might want to swap a couple to give more variety but she was happy with the way things were. Fine. So off we went.
I’m pretty inexperienced at Dominion and there were a couple of cards in this setup that I’d not used before, but it was really gratifying to see Miss B exploring some of the possibilities as much as I was. Very soon she was finding that she could combine the Adventurer card (which cycles through your deck looking for treasure) with assorted other cards to great effect. I don’t think she was really thinking of it in terms of building combos, but she was able to work out the best order to play her cards and it was amazing how often she ended up with a hefty fistful of treasure by the end of the action step of her turn. In the end we had a brilliantly close game that genuinely came down to the count at the end. And I won this time. Just.
This must have been one of the best gaming sessions we have had yet. Both games worked really well and gave us lots to think about. Dominion in particular seemed to be close to its best, playing quickly with the two of us using very different strategies but both doing well with it. I guess it’s all about the card mix — I’m kicking myself for not noting down what the cards were (though if I look closely enough at the photo I took, maybe…).
Anyway, Miss B insisted that I let her type her thoughts, so here we go…
“I like dominion becos i liked seeying who won.I like carcassonne becos i like the meeples 🙂 Missb wrote this.”
On sober reflection, Miss B has announced that Carcassonne scored 8 out of 10 and Dominion had 10 out of 10, so we are pleased to announce that Dominion is the first finalist for this year’s Golden Thingummy award.
You may remember that last summer Miss B and I selected a few games to play off against each other and see which one we liked best. By “we” I meant, of course, Miss B, who has the final vote in all things. I took a long time to write all this up but the eventual winner was the worthy Enchanted Forest.
Well, it is that time again and perhaps we will turn the Golden Thingummy Award into an annual thing. So here we go…
The selection procedure for the shortlist is that we make a big pile out of the games that we have played over the last year (the ones that we can play with just the two of us, anyway) and Miss B selects two of them. I then choose two more games that I think would be good contenders (based on the fun we have had with them plus a bit of my personal bias).
Miss B’s picks were…
Dominion. Miss B said, “I’m not sure why but I just like it.” I reckon this is a good, if slightly surprising choice. As long as we can keep the most disruptive cards (like the Witch) out of the game, we can have a lot of fun with this.
Robo Rally. Miss B said, “I like Twonky because I could make it out of a box.” A slightly random comment, but for those of you not in the know, Twonky is one of the robots in the game, and looks like a cute walking television (not at all like Evil Edna). I’m not sure this game is a strong one for us right now: we’ve played it once and it is a bit of a struggle, even with enormous concessions made to make it easier for Miss B. We’ll see.I was genuinely surprised that Miss B didn’t pick Sleeping Queens, which has been her go-to game for some time. But you know what I was saying about personal bias? Well, while I’m happy playing Sleeping Queens because it is a fairly decent game and Miss B loves it, I’ll never choose it myself. So, my picks were…
Carcassonne. We’ve not played this for a while, but it has always gone down well and is just a solid, fun game.
Citadels. A new one to us, but has already had a few plays and is becoming a firm favourite with a nice combination of ease of play and layered bluffing and psychology.
If I had a third pick it would probably have been Coloretto, which is just great.
So, that is our shortlist. We’ll be having two semi-final sessions where we will pick a pair of games to try together as a grand final. Updates will follow in the coming weeks…
So I’ve been keeping this blog (on and off) for over a year now and we’ve played quite a lot of games. We’ve had only one report for most games, though a few have had extra mentions. The question now is which are the favoured games that we keep going back to?
Well, over the last couple of weeks or so, I would say that the games most requested by Miss B would be:
- Sleeping Queens
- Goblins Drool, Fairies Rule
The other games that have had a lot of play but which are usually suggested by me (and readily agreed to by Miss B) are headed up by:
- Castle Panic
Now, all this is just me recording my hunches, but it’s probably safe to say those six games are a good selection that get plenty of play and will probably continue to do so for a while. But in the interest of science, I’m planning to be a bit more systematic for a while. My plan is to record what we play and who chooses it through the month of July. I’ll report back after doing that and see what that tells us.
We’ve been talking about this around here for some time now, but after earlier in the weekend when Miss B whipped me once again at no-farmers-no-nastiness-Carcassonne, I suggested that we try it with the full rules, although still using a no-nastiness convention (basically meaning that I’m not trying to contest points or playing tiles that would cause scupperage, as I might in adult company). Miss B was well up for this, so I explained the way farmers work and we got on with it.
In case you don’t know, farmers are easily the most complicated part of the basic set of Carcassonne. They stay in play once placed (and can’t be recovered like other followers) and only score at the end of the game in a way that can be difficult to predict and requires rather more planning than relying on cloisters, roads and cities for scoring. I tried to advise Miss B on sensible use of farmers, but as usual she made her own choices, which resulted in two farmers being put into play by her, one of which scored nothing.
By the end of the game I had lapped Miss B on the scoring track, but she didn’t seem to have a problem with this. I suggested that maybe next time we play, we go back to our old way of playing, but she said that she preferred the game with farmers even though she lost. Wow, I’m so proud of her for that. I think next time I’ll give her the option of which rules to play.
Now I come to think of it though, I think she was remembering an earlier conversation where I’d said that there isn’t any point in playing with the River tiles if we have no farmers. She’s rather taken with the idea of the River, so I reckon she’s just working towards being allowed to add in an expansion. Cunning.
Carcassonne is another one of those Eurogame classics that pretty much everyone likes, though I have only played it a few times. With this game, the rules are so straightforward that it’s difficult to simplify, though possibly the most complicated part of the basic game involves the scoring of farmers, so we just did away with that and only had knights, thieves and monks to play with.
Miss B got the hang of tile placement right away, perhaps because the rule is effectively “put it anywhere it looks right”. The game also lends itself well to a “let’s just start and I’ll explain as we go along” approach. After we had played half a dozen or so turns, B asked me, “Are we playing the game now?”
The scoring also went well and soon she was playing a pretty respectable game with little guidance from me. In fact, she went into a strong early lead which she maintained throughout the game until I finally managed to scrape a draw in the final tally.
The verdict from Miss B (aged 5¼): “I liked it because I wanted you to win and I wanted to win so I liked that we had a draw… I liked everything the best.”
The game: Carcassonne (Rio Grande/Hans Im Glueck), 2 to 5 players aged 8+.