Sunday Playtime

I skipped board games this past Tuesday to attend a stand-up comedy show. However, I was able to get some gaming in earlier in the week. Friends of a friend were visiting from out of town. Their Sunday activities included some board games at the local store. In addition to getting to play games with old and new friends, I also had the chance to snap some play session photos.

The core element of game play.

Alex, Alyssa and Bob (left to right) demonstrate the core element of game play.

Ca$h ‘n Gun$ was familiar to me, having played it earlier this summer at ConnectiCon. Quarterstaff Games’ demo copy of the game, sadly, had only ever had the shrinkwrap removed and the pieces rifled through, but still sealed — by me, no less, shortly after it appeared on the shelf after Origins.

In our two rounds of play, I don’t think anyone quite got the grip of knowing when to bluff or stand their ground. After all, when you chicken out of a stand-off, you survive but get a coward token, which counts against your total haul at the end of the game. So we all faced the music most of the time and gambled on whether someone would be willing to use their precious shots on little ol’ me.

After that, we played a game of Small World. I wasn’t able to stay until the end, so I can’t comment on the overall experience. The premise is a variety of fantasy races expand across a series of geographical regions and, naturally, come into conflict with other expanding races. Like Cosmic Encounter, you mix and match races with attributes and abilities. The berserker sorcerers, for example, might rampage across a chain of regions on their player’s turn. Then the hill dwarves start doing the same thing on their turn. These attributes usually give the race a goal and sometimes an ability. I started with seafaring halflings. In addition to their basic ability of establishing “holes in the ground,” making two regions immune to conquest and other races’ powers, their nautical nature allowed the halflings to conquer and cross water regions like they were land — and keep the water regions after going into decline. Because, you see, players don’t stick with just the one species over the course of a game. There’s an ongoing queue of races to choose from; five are available at costs of victory points starting at free and going up from there. More races join the queue as others enter play.

In fact, “going into decline,” when a race has expanded to its maximum, is part of the game. You have to balance the usefulness of capturing a decreasing number of regions each turn as your units, for lack of a better term, spread across the map to retain possession of previously acquired areas, against the shiny prospects of a young race, still energetic and numerous.

Right after declaring my halflings would go into decline, having then decided the extra turn required to occupy the last water space wasn’t worth the time when all my fellow players were retiring their first peoples, I realized I had to run, so I have no idea how the game plays from there. It’s certainly worth another play.

I liked how non-confrontational the interaction was. We all knew the game was about capturing and retaking territories, but it never felt like a struggle on my part to balance aggression against keeping peace with the neighbors. That may be due to leaving just as the second races were entering play, so I’ll keep that in mind going into my next game.

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