The day began with what for all intents and purposes was shuffleboard. It ended with my glorious civilization of Rhodos crumbling into ruins as it got involved in an arms race with a neighbor. In between, I managed to kill off several members of my family and prevent Azathoth from crossing into our world and, well, eating everybody. Oh, and there were donuts. Of course there were donuts. You’re not going to have a bunch of gamer geeks get together and not have an irresponsible amount of sugar.
Yesterday was the first International TableTop Day, an idea cooked up by Wil Wheaton as an off-shoot of his gaming web series. Fans were encouraged to gather together and play games, be it at home or at their local game store. So the usual suspects from the Sci-Fi City Gamers Meetup group decided our usual six hours of gaming a week wasn’t enough and planned to descend on Sci-Fi City for nearly half a day’s worth of dice, cards, counters and meeples.
After digging into some bagels and donuts to get my energy up, the first game I played was Tumblin-Dice, easily the finest game named after a Rolling Stones song ever made. Players take turns dropping, rolling, and tossing dice down a series of platforms, each one worth an increasing multiplier of whatever number comes up on the dice. The 4x platforms are the most difficult and naturally the ones everyone tried to go for, but I figured better to shoot for the easier 3x platform and actually make it than waste dice trying for the smaller ones. I must have been doing something right, because I ended up winning, getting my day off to a good start and earning me a celebratory donut.
Next up was Gloom, also known affectionately as Charles Addams: The Game. The object here is to make your family as unhappy as possible by playing various misfortunes on them so they eventually die of extreme misery. The winner is the one with the most miserable family when the game ends. Happy times all around. But the fun comes from the stories you’re asked to weave around whatever horrible act you commit on the characters. whether it’s getting mauled by a manatee or being plagued by the pox. It’s a game that’s just as much about the shared experience as it is about who wins or loses. And what was really fun was that, in addition to providing every expansion of the game, one of our group also created a custom family based on Sci-Fi City, and I was fortunate enough — or unfortunate enough, considering I ended up cooked in pot — to have a card made of me:
I also won this game, which had the added benefit of earning me a special set of TableTop promo cards for the game. Now I can do terrible things to Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day and get away with it. And I earned a celebratory donut.
This was followed by two games of Dixit. This is a much more relaxed, abstract kind of game, where players take turns as a storyteller describing one of the art cards in their hand. The other players select cards from their hands that they think match the storyteller’s description, and then vote on which card they think was the original one. Scoring is based on who votes for which card, and the first player to 30 wins. The cards have some really beautiful, often surrealistic images on them, and you can have a lot of fun trying to come up with a clever description. But you have to be careful not to be too on-the-nose or too obscure, since having everyone or no one pick your card gets you no points and scores for everyone else. Unfortunately, I managed to be on-the-nose and obscure quite frequently and didn’t win either game. This called for a consolation donut.
While waiting for some players to arrive for our next big game, we played a few hands of Gang of Four, whose box proclaims it as “The #1 Card Game in Asia.” Oddly, it contains no Pokemon. Instead, it’s a mix between poker, Hearts and rummy, wherein you need to beat the hand of the player next to you, all the while trying to get rid of all your cards as quickly as possible. Players with cards left in their hands at the end of a round are stuck with points based on how many cards they have, and the lowest score when one player reaches 100 points wins. Seeing as after two hands we’d only managed to get someone to 4 points, we decided we’d like to play other games with the several hours we had remaining and moved on.
After the whimsy of Dixit and the simplicity of Gang of Four, it was time to deal with some sanity-sucking terror from beyond time and space with a little Elder Sign. Answer the questions, “What if Cthulhu played Yahtzee?” and you get the idea. Players work together as investigators making their way through a museum trying to defeat supernatural threats in order to accumulate the resources needed to keep a horrible Elder God from emerging into our world and making it a generally bad day overall. Those threats are defeated by rolling special dice and matching the symbols required to complete a given adventure. There’s a ticking clock in the background as the Elder God gets closer and closer to freedom and more and more monsters appear in the museum. Spells are slung, sanity is lost, and there’s a very real chance of the players utterly failing. Fortunately for the fate of the world, there were eight of us on the case, and the Elder God was dispatched with relative ease. Sadly, no more celebratory donuts were available by this time.
My last game of the day was an old favorite, 7 Wonders. I’ve already waxed rhapsodic about this game and it’s Leaders expansion, but this time we threw in the Cities expansion as well, and with a full seven players at the table. Now when I teach people this game, one of the points I make is not to get caught up in a military race with your opponent, since it expends cards and resources that could be used to earn significantly more victory points than the relatively small rewards that come from winning battles. And of course, I failed to heed my own advice, matching my friend sword for sword until we’d both pretty much guaranteed ourselves finishing near the bottom. But even a losing game of 7 Wonders is a fun game, and I still marvel at how quickly a game with seven players all doing different things managed to move.
By this point it was nearly 7:00, I’d been there since 10 in the morning, and had had nothing to eat but bagels and donuts for various occasions, so 7 Wonders was my final game of the day. Although I did linger for a bit watching the three other games that were still in progress, a good dozen diehard players determined to see International TableTop Day through to the end. I just wanted to soak in the atmosphere a little longer. It was a great day of gaming with a lot of good people, and if I never see another donut again, it’ll be too soon.