Sunday, January 10, 2010

Secret Santa Game Exchange

And here you thought the holidays were over.

See, I've discovered that gamers have a hibernation period:

Every year, in every gaming group I've been a part of, Game Days start slowing down in late fall, and then come to a virtual standstill over the holidays (because, contrary to popular belief, we gamers apparently do have lives - who knew?). However, they then come roaring back in January. That is so true this year: I have a game scheduled pretty much every weekend of January.

So, in that vein, one of my groups celebrated Giftmas just a tad late, holding our "Secret Santa Game Exchange Day" yesterday.

We each made a list of games we wanted, and our Secret Santa purchased one of those off the list. We got together yesterday to open our gifts and play as many of the new games as we could.

Here're some scenes of the day, complete with color commentary.

It's my Secret Santa, DJ David K! He put the whole thing together, got us all to do wish lists, coordinated the exchange and basically herded cats to make it happen. Plus, he drew my name, so I was guaranteed an awesome gift:

Android is a complex, sci fi storytelling game where the players race against time and each other to solve a murder. There's a whole dystopian world of androids, clones, gadgets and vehicles, all set on a moon colony in the future. You're not only trying to solve the murder, but you're trying to solve your character's personal backstory and deal with their demons before the end of the two week game period.

This is exactly the kind of immersive, rich, theme-based world that David and I love in our games, so as soon as he saw it on my list he wanted to play it. Through total luck (and I know, because we were on Skype when he did the random draw), he got my name, and so I got Android.

Kingsburg was the game David got from his Santa, and it's on my list too. It's more of a strategy, resource-gathering game. You're basically playing as one of the king's governors, holding your own "duchy". You have to influence the king's advisors to give you various resources with which you build buildings - each that has its own effect. The buildings then let you fend off invasion (which happens periodically) or give you other benefits.

Here's my view of the table while playing Kingsburg. The mechanics are simple and straightforward, and it didn't take any time to learn the rules. There's an element of chance each round, so you're kind of having to rethink your strategy every round, which keeps you engaged. I actually loved this game, and want it now even more than I did before.

Here are some of the other games people got:

I got to be Secret Santa to my good friend Bryce! (There were lots of people I didn't know, so it was cool that two of the closest people there to me were my giver and receiver.) Anyway, Shadows over Camelot is an oldie-but-goodie, but one of the ones that Bryce doesn't have in his collection. Now he does.

My friend Davy got A Touch of Evil. It's a very atmospheric game set in the 18th century. You randomly draw a character on a card, each with their own abilities. I was Katarina, the Outlaw. This meant mostly that I was the best shot in the game. Also, that I was hot.

The premise is that you have a bunch of heroes going up against a randomly chosen villain, which is not played by anyone. So, it's basically you against the game. You have "teams" of heroes, though, so it was your team against the others. I'll do a full-blown review on Giant Fire Breathing Robot, but I had a hard time with this game. It lasted forever for starters and the rules and mechanics were a bit overwhelming for me. At the same time, the artwork, theme and soundtrack (yes, soundtrack) were pretty freaking awesome. So, I definitely want to try it again.

Overall, Secret Santa Day was a roaring success. I got an awesome game, got to spend time with some of my favoritest people, and made cookies that got me extra popularity points, which always come in handy.

Finally, speaking of Giant Fire Breathing Robot (GFBR, for short), that's my friends' new site for all things "geeky". They're really trying to branch out past games to cover anything of interest for our type of people. I've been writing some articles for them, so check them out.

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