Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Lesbians On: A Few Hiccups in My Relationship with Board Games

Hey there, we’re two gay board gaming girls from the land of Vegemite. Now I like to think that I’m a bit of a board game Casanova – wooing the best units with my skillz and dashing good looks, playing my cards right to charm those victory points to my side of the board. I mean, I do literally keep all my games inside my (not usually steamy) boudoir. Sadly however, there are times when there are little hiccups in our otherwise beautiful relationship. Ok, it is a shameful admission, but there are a few parts of gaming I fail at harder than a five estate hand in Dominion. Try as I might, there are some things at which I will never improve, even with my very own training montage. Today, I’m writing about those curs’ed things.

1. Hoarding Cards to Make Apocalyptic Hands

There is a wise old saying, urging speedy and decisive action, which goes like this: “Strike while the iron is hot.” Sadly, I seem to have developed my own personal version of this phrase which goes something like “strike while the iron is still tepid.” Draw a killer card first round? I’m not waiting for that so called “optimal strategic moment” to play it as part of a “killer combo.” If I’m holding TNT in my hand I want to scorch my opponent now dammit, not wait to fuse it into an atomic bomb. Apparently, this is not what hard core awesome gamers do. I BRING SHAME ON MY FAMILY. An example. I mentioned on our Twitter ( that my gorgeous gorgeous girlfriend had given me the best surprise an obsessed gamer can get, and planted a brand new copy of RFTG: The Gathering Storm in the middle of my games collection. She also slipped in another game – a cute and quirky card-based quick play called Gloom.

Featuring wonderful art by Keith Baker!
The object of Gloom is to subject the family you play to the most extreme misery possible, and then kill them off for points. Because, you know, board game players are such nice people. For a game of family fun, Gloom can get hilariously vicious, especially when I play with the GF when, as I mentioned before, a friendly match becomes an attempt to crush each other TO THE FIERY DEPTHS OF HELL.

Most of the cards in Gloom are averagely useful, but now and then in a 2 player game you draw a card SO AWESOME that it’s almost embarrassing. These cards have such power that when played it feels like your opponent has picked up your entire game so far and put it through a blender. Thus, when three or four of these cards come out in a row, it’s like a blender, followed by a meat mincer, then an industrial mixer, then back through the meat mincer once again. Which is pretty much what I felt had happened to me after I lost to the GF four games in a row (out of four). The first two games my ego let me chalk it down to luck. After the second two, I could deny it no longer. The GF had a skill I didn’t. The problem was, that while I played a series of unfortunate events, she played the game like a Shakespearian tragedy – everything goes along swimmingly until suddenly everyone ends up dead. No matter how determined I was, I could not hold those great cards until the end. My apocalyptic nuke’em hand of ultimate doom and destruction is never to be…

2. Spending Downtime Well

I’m going to put it out there, I view dealing with downtime as a skill. And as someone who when gaming almost exclusively partners with their exclusive partner (read: 2 player), it’s a skill I’ve never really developed. I’ve heard that there is many a useful and wise thing one can do during downtime. You could, for instance, plan not one, but several next moves that could be implemented according to the condition of the board after the other players’ turns. Alternatively, you could watch your opponent like you’re viewing an old detective film, trying to turn their gestures and moves into clues as to what they’ll do next. But, if you’re me, downtime quite simply just means naptime. Sometimes this can become literal (like during a 1am four player game of Mage Knight.) But mostly this just means turning off the cogs, putting up my metaphorical feet, and thinking about what’s for dinner. By the time my turn comes along, I have to kick start myself back into gear again, and my next turn just takes even longer. 

This zone-out-factor is even higher in indirect interaction games, and it’s usually not until the very last turn that I look over and see everyone has seven cards in their Citadel’s tableau. Clearly, this calls for drastic action to be taken. What I should be doing is rubbing my razor powers of observation against a knife-sharpener very rapidly, before I find myself losing to opponents I should have crushed utterly beneath my mighty wrath. What I actually do is look for other innovative ways to entertain myself during my downtime. Like, say…attempting to play two games at once.

Gloom Knight!

3. Attempting to Play Two Games At Once

This was much harder than it initially seemed, especially since different players take different amounts of time to play their turns – ironically, it led to just as much downtime! It also seriously cut down my chances of winning or actually enjoying either game. I have learnt an important lesson from this. Board games are JEALOUS MISTRESSES. They do NOT like you fooling around with another. Even when you tell them they are the game you really care about, you are still going to accidentally pick up that hand of USSR cards when you’re playing as the US. Threesome? Forget it.

4. Bluffing

Bluffing is a skill that can be used on many different levels. On the highest level, it is a complex psychological process which involves double, triple, or quadruple guessing your opponents in order to hound them, cat and mouse style, into behaving the very way you desire. Few board game players can master this. On a more basic level it’s about hiding your intent to strike with your mighty-hand-of-awesome-and-soul-crushing-woe, or when you are holding less than nothing but still need to hold your own. This, most players can manage. Not me. Case in point, yesterday’s game of Twilight Struggle:
GF: I see you’ve placed all your influence in Europe. Holding a Europe scoring card?
Me: No. What are you talking about? No. Maybe. No. ALRIGHT I ADMIT IT I AM HOLDING IT I’m sorry I couldn’t lie to you it breaks my heart….

…Sad, but true….

In high school way back, when Werewolf was still a fun and really cool game, we had to invent a rule that applied only to me, banning direct questioning because I crumpled even under extremely mild interrogation. I refuse to play poker because I turn bright red whenever someone asks a question about my cards (the only kind of flush I ever seem to get.) But wait, it gets worse. For I have broken the first commandment of bluffing. A commandment so simple that a player without it is fatally handicapped. That commandment is: not saying your strategy out loud. Yep, this may not require skill, strategy, or higher order thinking, but it does appear to require some level of self-restraint, which I apparently do not have.

Race For the Galaxy:
1. Me: Oh, I don’t have any consume powers.
(GF consumes.)
2. Me: Looks like I’ll end the game this turn
(GF discards all cards for a 6? development and wins.)
3. Me: And then, I will take the first to discard bonus.
(GF takes first to discard bonus)
Bluffin, my very worst enemy…


  1. Love your blog!

    Here's my big one: Realizing I have an opponent.

    Any game I play is going to be solitaire regardless of number of opponents, as my Mobius Strip of a one-track mind won't allow me to consider anything other than what I am doing. If I have a plan established, I'm not going to let anything anybody else does deter me from my sacred mission!

  2. Nice blog! Please keep posting!

  3. Nice blog, please keep posting!

  4. Hi! Have you ever noticed, have your writting skills gone any better recently?