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Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Game Weekend. Part: The Second.

Sunday morning saw us playing several games, none of which I remember. I taught a group to play In the Shadow of the Emperor just before lunch. The game was met with a yawn. I think 2 of the guys may have liked it, but the third left no doubt that he disliked it.

At about 1 p.m. we had to cut the game short in order to get to the rafting trip. If you should find yourself in Denali Park and want to do some whitewater rafting Denali Outdoor Center is a good choice. According to the website they also do guided mountain bike trips, kayaking, etc.

We went on the 2 hour trip. I understand that the 4 hour trip doesn't have any more rapids, it just starts further up stream and lasts longer. For those of you familiar with Alaska geography, we put in above the park entrance and ended in Healy. Healy is about a half hour drive from the park. We made it in a raft in 2 hours. The water is quite swift.

Short background note. Feel free to skip this paragraph. I hate hot weather. Anything above 62 F. is hot in my book. I moved to Alaska to get away from hot weather. Were it not for my wife I would move from Fairbanks to the coast because we get 30+ days each year of 70 degree weather here in Fairbanks. That is a little too hot for me. I can handle the cold. -50 is is no picnic, but it is better than +80.

Resume reading. The source of the Nenana river is about 90 miles upstream from Denali park. The source is a glacier. The water is cold, about 36 F. Dry suits were a necessary evil for the trip. The weather was sunny and warm when we put on the dry suits. They recommend you wear warm clothes under the dry suits. Fortunately, I was smart enough to ignore this advice.

For those of you who have never been in a dry suit, let me explain. They are intended to be water proof. They are thick rubber suits. They are very tight around the neck. They are very tight around the wrists. Boots are connected to the suit. The sun was shining, and I had a life vest on over the dry suit that was tighter than any life vest I have ever worn in my life.

I was dying from the heat. We then got on the bus to drive up river to the spot where we started the trip. It was a school bus. All the windows were up. No one else put down a window. I took the liberty of putting down my neighbor's windows without consulting them. I was ready to die from the heat and uncomfortable suit.

As we were getting our rafting-safety-lecture on the bank of the river I edged on out into the water. I was trying to at least get my legs wet enough to cool off. I splashed water on my face. No luck. I was seriously considering not getting on the raft.

I am glad I stuck it out and took the trip. We got sprayed pretty well in the first rapids. That helped a lot. It then started to rain. What a life saver. The rest of the trip was quite enjoyable... for me. The people from Arkansas nearly froze to death.

When we got back I was able to play Candamir: The First Settlers, the latest game from Herr Teuber. Another fellow had brought the game and I was eager to play. In Candamir players travel through forests, meadows and mountains collecting ingredients for herbal potions, and resources. Herbs can be used in various combinations to brew concoctions to help you on your adventures. Resources are used to gain victory points. The resemblance to Settlers is just about nil. There is a trading phase during each player's turn, but there is generally little trading, I would say trading is on a par with the Settlers Card game.

Candamir is one of the few German games I have played that I didn't first have to buy. I am glad. I thought the game's theme was excellent, I thought it was theoretically a good game. The only bad thing I can say about it is that it lasts too long, waaaaaay to long. I will not be buying it because of that. I won't be buying it anytime soon, anyway.

Monday was a short day. Check out time was 11 a.m. We broke camp and played another game of Shadows Over Camelot until noon. Most people left on Sunday night. Those of us who stayed until Monday were the same ones who arrived on Friday night.

This game of SOC was a four player game. One of the players hadn't played the first game, luckily he wasn't the traitor. Although the traitor did win we gave him a run for his money. Toward the end of the game it became apparent we loyal knights couldn't win, but the game was engaging enough that we kept playing with enthusiasm. I am rather impressed with Shadows Over Camelot. I find it to be much better than Knizia's Lord of the Rings.

LotR is a cooperative game in the same vein as SOC. The two are often compared. I never cared for the Knizia game. Other than the cooperative aspect, I find the two games to have little else in common. Yes, both game require card-play. So what? Settlers of Catan requires card play, as does Bridge. The two games have nothing in common.

I apologize for not having better pictures. I took a few pictures between rain showers. I kept hoping the next day would be a better day for taking pictures. It just never happened. These are some of the few pictures I took over the weekend.

In Candamir, the tiles were misprinted for the 4-player game in the Mayfair edition. All the tiles with a '4' should have an extra resource or, if they already have two resources, an extra experience. This should speed up the game somewhat. I really wanted to like Candamir, but agree that it's too long. I haven't yet played with the (intended) Mayfair tile set, so can't say whether the richer set is enough to shorten it acceptably. Some of the 3s might need to be made richer also.

Funny, several friends of mine who didn't like Lord of the Rings but did like Shadows over Camelot have similarly said they see no or few similarities. To me, this is decidedly odd. Yeah, there is the traitor, and that's a big difference. But other than that? The quests stand in for LotR's tracks, with different card types which are played to advance specific different quests/tracks. The black card deck stands in for the tile bag and event track. The Catapults resemble Sauron.

My friend Rich & I were trying to figure out why Shadows seemed to appeal to people who actively disliked Lord of the Rings, and we were theorizing that the movement between tracks and individual quests gave you more of a personal sense of accomplishment and control (even though it often means more limited choices than in LotR, where you don't need to spend a turn moving between "quests"). LotR is a tougher game to win, and you really do need to cooperate. Shadows you don't; you can do your own thing, and even though you ultimately control your own actions in both games, Shadows *feels* more individual because you have a piece you're moving around.

Anyway. Regardless of all this, I think it's interesting that despite their similarities, people's psychological approach to Shadows and LotR can be quite different.
Ahhhhhhhh. A misprint. That is good to know. Now that you mention it, I think I did read something about that. It is theoretically a sound game, I will have to try it again.

Shadows not only feels more individual, it is. Although there are some random tile draws in LotR, there aren't that many tiles. It is much easier to figure the odds of certain tiles coming up after you've been on a certain board for 3 or 4 rounds of play than it is in SOC. In SOC there is still a whole deck of cards left after 3 or 4 rounds of play.

LotR is much more "programmed" to follow a script than is SOC.

But, yes, I do agree with your analysis. I will have to give more thought to my comparison. The two games do have similarities. I will have to figure out why I think the similarities are more superficial than anything.
I won't dispute that LotR is a bit more programmed, and that certain odds are more tractable. These are, IMHO, good things, because they give the game more flavor, more of a plot vector, and you can make informed choices, and feel like you're making progress - compare to Betrayal at whatever house, where everything happens randomly all the time and the whole thing just feels random and dumb. But I do appreciate that other people may interpret this balance differently.

But, I don't see how any of these factors bear on the sense of individual control or personal accomplishment.
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