Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Monday, July 02, 2007

Never Underestimate the Power of Having Fun.

The last few weeks have allowed me to play some really great games that have just recently come out. One thing that I really enjoy about boardgaming is that there is always something new to try and buy - a characteristic of this hobby that from an outward appearance may seem somewhat detrimental (You have to buy another game? What's wrong with the ones you already own?), but in actuality, is a one of the reasons I enjoy gaming so much.

Case in point. Colosseum by Days of Wonder. I was at game night two weeks ago and John (the host for the meetings of the Central Valley Wargamers), pulls out this new game that I had passed over at the dealer's booth of DoW at Kublacon. It's not that the game had anything wrong with it at first glance, the problem was that I never even glanced at it as I was drooling over Battlelore and the Memoir 44 stuff they had out.

So John sets up the game and we go through the rules in about 50-60 minutes as none of us have played - not a problem for me, but some of the guys can't sit still for more than 15 minutes at a time without fidgeting and losing focus.

Most of us treated this as a "learning" game - meaning we know mistakes will be made and just go with the flow. We play the first 2 turns and everyone is kind of getting the hang of it when we have 2 other members show up and we decide to restart the game so everyone can get in. We pair up the two new players with a couple of us that just ran through the 1st two turns to explain as we go and we restarted it.

The 2nd game went really smoothly. Basically, you are collecting tiles (assets) to produce "events" for the nobles of Rome who are travelling around the board visiting different Colosseums throughout the city. There are assets like Gladiators and Chariots and Scenery and Animals and various other things that you bid on in groups of 3 and then have the option to trade away to the other players for items you need.

Each of the 5 game turns you can produce just ONE event which can earn you points and money to expand your Colosseum, buy bigger events, or build special features which can attract the traveling nobles more easily to your Colosseum.

Colosseum has some great subtleties to it and there are various ways to work strategies even if you don't have the optimum assets to complete an event. The really cool thing is that your score is not cumulative - your score marker only is moved pass it's current location IF the event you just produce scored higher than any of your previous events. This is usually pretty easy to do, but there are reasons not to score higher which you will discover through a few plays.

We found out we still had a rule wrong in this 2nd game (we were not allowing people to produce the same event again in a later turn), but everyone still was engrossed by the game and I'm sure it will hit the table alot at our CVW game nights.

The next day was a Saturday and my sister came over (a converted gamer of mine) in the afternoon with her family to swim and spend the rest of the day with us. Food was first on the menu, and everyone wanted something different so we split up into groups - she came with me because I had told her about this "great game" I played last night and we planned to sneak over to the local game store to see if they had it. She assumed it was a purchase for me and I was pleased to see that they had a copy and I grabbed it.

Once in the car, I handed it to her and said "Happy Birthday!" which caught her off guard. I could tell she was unsure about this blind purchase (for her anyway), but she was very gracious and said I had to teach it to her tonight before they all went home.

After dinner, I punched out everything and the four of us sat down to play. My wife, Mary HATES learning a new game, but I kept the explanation short and planned to just walk through a turn and let them catch on. I went first and we went step by step through all the phases and scored the first turn of the game. My brother in law Decio took and early lead, but everyone had a good grasp of what to do and the rule questions became fewer and fewer as the game went on.

My sister seemed to be falling way behind in the points, but she had a smile on her face regardless. Success I thought! Little did I realize how off I was.

We finished the game and an amazing thing happened. THREE of us tied for 1st place. My brother in law was in "last' place by just 3 points. Now it was about 10pm on a Saturday night at this point and they live about an hour and fifteen minutes away. I asked what the thought of it and all of them, my wife, my sister and my brother in law began raving about how much fun the game was. I was thinking to myself "This never happens on a first playing of a game!"

They sat there and discussed strategy and errors and new things they'd try for 15 minutes - all the while I'm putting the game away and smiling to myself. Then the big surprise occurred when Decio suggested we play again - right now. It was 10:30 at this point and usually he is the one that is chomping at the bit to get on the road because he hates driving at night. We always offer to have them stay, but they had to be somewhere in the morning at 9am. So he's pleading to all of us to play again and that he's willing to drink a bunch of coffee and drive home after the game so they can still make their son's soccer game in the morning.

Both my wife and sister immediately sit down and start setting up the game again. I was dumbfounded.

We ended up playing until 12:15 - this game went much faster now that we knew what we were doing and it was just as much fun as the first game. I managed to be the only one to produce a "mega" event and won the game by 10 points, but nobody cared who won and the table talk continued for another half hour until 1am.

They left close to 1:30 and I felt really good about the game as a gift - I was glad they both loved it and I knew that my nephew Zach (who had been working at couldn't come) was going to enjoy it too. The final part of this story occurred last Wednesday - not even a week since our games on the previous Saturday night.

I'm working on an report here at home when my phone rings. I look down and see that it's my brother - a big surprise since he rarely calls - even if it's an RSVP to a party or something. He is not a gamer at all - he usually avoids them like the plague, but recently, I have managed to get him to play (and enjoy) both Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride. He actually got both these games as Christmas and birthday gifts from me the past year too.

Our conversation went something like this:

"Hey Jon, how are you doing?"

"I'm good, but I need some help if you have a minute."

"Sure, what do you need?"

"Well... I'm looking for this game... it's called "Colosseum", and they don't have it here."

I don't think I said anything for at least 20 seconds as I tried to get over my shock. He had showed up at my sisters the past Sunday and they literally had to force him to sit down and try the game. He and my nephew Zach both got into it and they "worked" the trading phase ruthlessly - something they both excel at!

I ended sending him over to another game store I knew about close to his house and ended our conversation with a smile on my face.

There really is something powerful in these games. I've seen it.

1 comment:

Shawn said...

Hi Scott, this Colosseum game looks fun. I look forward to playing it soon. Also, I enjoyed your narrative of the impact it had on your family, especially Decio and Jon. Take care.