Ivan and Ben came over for some mid-week gaming of what else...A Game of Thrones LCG. It really is a brilliant game and I'm glad to have found common enthusiasts for a game with such niche appeal.
Ben and I opted for familiarity and played with Ivan's Baratheon and Lannister decks, while Ivan unleashed on us his new Martell deck from the recent Princes of the Sun expansion. House Martell has a couple of interesting effects triggered after challenges are lost. It is somewhat unintuitive as you are in a situation where you take one step back to gain two steps forward. It requires far more thoughtful play and bodes well for the strategic depth of the game. I enjoy the peculiar strengths and weaknesses of the various Houses and how a different play strategy is required to utilize each of them successfully.
I struggled with income early on, which is highly ironic for a Lannister deck. I played Wildfire Assault in the early rounds in a bid to rein back my opponents. I leveraged on my draw effects to gain further ground. My advantage in Intrigue reaped me a couple of power tokens through the Lannisport location card which allowed me to pay 1 gold for a power token after each Intrigue challenge I win. This added up quickly and by keeping my power tokens on my House card as opposed to my characters, my progress was undeterred by Ben's Melinsandre, which negates power tokens on opposing characters. In contrast, Ivan struggled as he had a number of card effects which gained him power tokens on his characters. I finally clinched victory with an unopposed power challenge by stealthing Ivan's only unkneeled character with the power symbol.
I played a game of Joust with Ben after Ivan left. I was flooded with income this game but fell prey to Ben's Baratheon power rush. He searched out Stannis Baratheon and racked up power tokens through unopposed challenges as I was unable to defend without a Lord character in play. By the time I managed one, his lead was large unassailable. I played an event card to take out his Robert Baratheon and his mountain of power tokens from Renown but that only delayed the inevitable as he romped to victory shortly after.
In between, we played a 4 player game of Ra with Van joining in. The Ra tiles came fast and furious and my greed got the better of me on the last epoch, opting to hold on to my 13 tile instead of swapping it for a full row. The epoch ended sooner than I expected, and Ben who swooped in on that row with his last tile took the win, with Van a close second.
On Friday, our cell and a couple of friends joined us at our Conrad suite for some games. They were mostly tired after a long day at work but still managed a game of Settlers of Catan.
It occurred to me that despite having explained the game multiple times, I don't seem to have grasped the best formula for it. It is especially ironic considering 1. I'm almost always the 'rules' guy when it comes to new games, and 2. Settlers is like the first Euro I ever played! Somehow, it's difficult to present the rules neatly in a logical flow when there are so many tinny bits here and there to explain e.g. trading, rules governing development cards, etc. I don't think I necessarily do a bad job but I always have a nagging feeling after that my explanation could be better. I probably find it easier to explain more complex games such as Agricola or Puerto Rico as compared to Settlers. Either that or it could simply be the audience I usually pitch Settlers to - opting for it as my go-to "gateway" game and thus facing crowds that may not immediately tune in to such rules and mechanics of Eurogames.
Colin and Kaelyn dropped by halfway through and I was able to introduce them to Monopoly Deal and Citadels. Kaelyn commented Citadels felt very much like a "guys' game". I suppose there's some truth to it considering its medieval theme. For female non-gamers, the theme of the game is probably far more crucial as a 'hook' than its mechanics. Even Van who I consider a gamer of sorts gets turned off by space (read Race for the Galaxy) and medieval (read A Game of Thrones LCG) themes. She may be willing to give them a try but rarely will desire to play them again. Abstracts don't sit well with her either. My most thematic game is arguably Battlestar Galactica but unfortunately, that's the wrong sort of theme for her, especially when she has never watched a single episode of BSG and is unlikely to.