Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Tribes and Tribulations

Tonight we congregated at Joe’s. In attendance were six regulars: Joe, myself, Martin, Ian, Matt and Sam, along with newcomer to the group (and to board games) Jim, and old friend of Sam’s and sometime acquaintance of me and Joe’s.

Jim spoke of experience with Agricola and Settlers, and so he, Sam, Ian and Matt embarked on a four-player game of Macao. Martin had requested that Sam bring Five Tribes so he could try it again, so he, me and Joe set up on the rickety card table.

Joe started, and immediately left Martin with a move that got him the fifteen point tile. I sighed and grimly started wondering how I was going to make up that deficit. I went for resource cards, Martin built up his stock of viziers and djinns while Joe relied on his djinn’s special power to get him out of a tight spot. He was able to put three random meeples on an empty square. Unfortunately, twice near the end, the meeples he drew were the wrong colour for what he wanted and they ended up being wasted moves.

The defining characteristic of the game, it seemed to us, was that it’s not enough to maximise your points, you also have to leave nothing behind for the next player. We were all guilty of accidentally leaving the board in a state that another player could exploit for profit.

Martin 188
Andrew 164
Joe 143

A discussion about Five Tribes amongst everyone later that evening prompted Sam to suggest that a timer would make things better, but Martin thought that this would just mean that players made mistake more frequently. Perhaps, he said, the only way for the game to improve was if we all got better at it.

By the time we’d finished, Macao was still about halfway through, so we thought about what to play next. Joe insisted on Wizard. Martin wasn’t keen, and I didn’t know it, but Joe was so excited about the idea that we agreed.

Wizard is, basically, Contract Whist with eight extra cards: four Wizards that allow you to win any hand, and four Jester that allow you to lose any hand. Now you might think, looking at my performance, that what I’m about to say is sour grapes but I’ve never liked card games that are merely tweaked versions of games that already exist. The new cards don’t seem to add anything except an element of unpredictability. Especially if you don’t have any in your hand. While it was fun while it lasted, there really is no reason for this variant to exist and it certainly shouldn’t be pretending it’s a completely different game.

Joe 200
Martin 180
Andrew 0 (yes, zero)

We ended our game of Wizard to coincide with the end of the epic game of Macao. They told me the scores, and Jim made sure to tell me that, while he came last, he enjoyed it.

Matt 65
Sam 64
Ian 52
Jim 39

Since we were all ready for a new game together, we chose 6nimmt. Jim sat it out, saying he’d prefer to watch. We explained the rules to him anyway, so he could at least understand what was going on.

It was a typical game of 6nimmt, with people dodging cruel fate or, more often, running straight into it just as it's looking for a fight. In the first round, Joe picked up 40 points, and in the second round Sam did the same. As we entered the last round (the 66 point rule dropped due to time constaints) it was between Martin on 13 and Ian on 14 points. But this time, the hands on the clock of doom were pointing to Ian o'clock, and he picked up 31 points while Martin escaped with a clear round (as did Joe, by the way).

Martin 13
Andrew 41
Ian 43
Matt 53
Sam 58
Joe 61

On the form table with barely two weeks to go until the end of the season, Martin replaces Joe at the top.

Martin 1 2 1 3 1 8
Andrew 2 3 2 1 2 10
Chris 1 2 13 5 12
Adam 1 1 4 3 4 13
Sam 5 2 3 1 2 13
Joe 6 1 3 1 2 13
Matt 4 1 4 3 2 14
Ian 3 3 2 3 4 15
Hannah 3 4 5 2 2 16
Paul 2 2 5 5 5 19
Steve 1 5 5 5 5 21
Katie 3 3 5 5 5 21
Jim 4 5 5 5 5 24

But hey, I hear you all cry out, isn't there a division for 6nimmt we can all gawp at? Sure there is. Sam comes first on the medal table and is top on points, with "Silver Specialist" Steve taking points ratio. Well done, all.


  1. Have I really played 21 games of 6Nimmt? Jesus…

    Jim was a good sport jumping into Macao. I'd forgotten how long it takes with four - it's great with two I think, and three is ideal. Unless one of them is Martin, who hates Stefan Feld. I was languishing on the score track at the start of round 12, but., like last time, I had a few moves to do and rocketed past everyone. Unfortunately it wasn't enough as Matt rocketed right back - courtesy of his chained city quarters, he picked up the two extra points needed to shunt me into second. It's an excellent game! EXCELLENT MARTIN!!!

    6Nimmt is always fun but 40 points on one round… brutal.

  2. Looks like 6 Nimmt is the only game in which a master player will never finish outside the top two, regardless of the cards they are dealt :)

  3. Yeah I found 5 Tribes frustrating last night - I was overtired, and couldn't be bothered to do the mental gymnastics necessary to get points and not leave huge amounts for others to hoover up. Frustrating for my fellow players too, I'm sure.

    I tried to prime myself for last night's game by looking at the scoring categories on the pad. Not sure that helped much. More useful, it occurred to me far too late, is to keep in mind a respectable number to try and score each turn, tallying the cost of turn order and any other payments against points earned. What would that number be? Somewhere between 10 and 20 points, perhaps. Pretty sure that's what Martin and Andrew were doing. Organised thought processes.

    All of that doesn't sound like fun. And yet I'd still like to play again, I think. I won't be so generous with my droppings.

    I really love Wizard - yes it's Contract Whist, but with just enough added chaos to differentiate it, at least in my eyes. Super fun - thanks for giving it a whirl. I needed something less brain-burning than Sticheln, though I like that too. But why-oh-why didn't we play 99!? Next time there's three of us - with a freakin' card-table no less, that's what we're doing.

    6 Nimmt is lovely as always. Sam and I sort of mirrored each others performance, though he outdid me by a couple of points.