The secret to a great gaming night can be summarized to three factors: 1) Play time tested scenarios for games that you’ve played at least once before, 2) No wives/girlfriends, and 3) Don’t waste time messing with miniatures and geomorphic foam map pieces.
(Ducks for cover.)
Hey… watch those tomatoes!! Oh seriously…. The problem with women in war gaming sessions is that they too often use their relationships for extra leverage in the game. Make a devestating attack against your old highschool buddy and he takes it as all in good fun. Attack your wife and she’s liable to make some remark to effect that you’ll regret this later. (Cue “You’ll be Sleeping on the Couch” music… Da Da Da Dum!) On top of that, guys game to get away from all the entanglements of Real Life(tm), but women relax and unwind by “venting” and “processing” and “communicating” about Real Life issues. It’s a double barreled whammy that can ice any gaming session, unless you happen to be blessed with “significant others” that are particularly good sports. Not that any women that I’ve ever gamed with weren’t good sports. Um… oh nevermind!
Anyways, we played Illuminati that past Friday with three people. It was an easy going group. We all seem to have grown up some as we didn’t have any Rules Lawyering going on. In fact, we often spent more money on our attacks than we needed to because we were still getting the hang of things. Everyone did this at least once and none of us begged for take backs or recounts. Everyone was more concerned with keeping things moving than with maximizing every last detail of the accounting.
I started off on the wrong foot in a big way. I played the UFO’s and didn’t figure out until several turns in the game how to maximize my special ability. The trick was to always attack with one of your captured organizations– that way your Illuminati card could support 2 seperate attacks. I kept trying to attack with just the UFO by itself. Oh well! I also lost my Hollywood card to another Illuminati. Just as I got the hang of the rules I rolled 11’s or 12’s 4 times in a row! Incredible! I ended the 6th or 7th turn with just two cards and my opponents were both just a card or two from winning. To make matters worse, I chose a lousy victory condition. I was going for 35 power– which meant that the only way I could win was by getting 13 cards.
The guy that played before my turn was just about to win and there was no real way to prevent it except by attacking him. The guy playing after me had a ton of cards. I made an attack to get Hollywood back. Just as I laid down a good bit of money, he plays a special card to let him rearrange his money chits.
Foiled again? No quite. In moving his money around, he left a huge vulnerability on his power structure. I led off a new attack with my Republicans and took over about half his power structure. As his turn came up, he attacked the other player to prevent him from winning that turn. In a single round I’d gone from being in last place to first place!! During the final two rounds I consolidated my gains and I easily took the last 3 cards I needed. My opponents had expended all of their reserve cash in all the previous rounds and could do nothing to stop me. Woo hoo!
More important than just winning, we’ve now mastered to overall mechanics of the game. Next time we play, we’ll pick up on the nuances of the more obscure rules. The time after that we’ll be able to enjoy the full depth of the game. (It takes at least 4 sessions for a gaming group to master a new game.) Even though we didn’t quite know what we were doing, Illuminati was incredibly fun because of its off-kilter sense of humor and its nifty game mechanics. There’s definitely an art to designing power structures. And the possibilities of the blank cards are so enticing….
Great evening. Great game. “UFO’s aid the Republicans in an attack to control the Criminal Underworld.” Illuminati gets three thumbs up.