I am blessed...
...in the secular sense of course.
Last night, I got to teach Power Grid to my girlfriend, my brother, and his wife. It got a reasonably warm reception, and was followed by a quick game of Citadels for 3.
Tonight I got to play my first game of Taj Mahal against the formidable trio of Chester Ogborn (cornjob), Mary Weisbeck (sodaklady), and Joe Gola (Gola). I had read the rules a couple of times previously, and have had it on my want list since then. But after this single playing, I'm fairly certain it is my favorite game ever.
I am a fan of Reiner Knizia designs, but I still view each new game with a healthy amount of skepticism. Taj Mahal is simply the perfect blend of mechanics: semi-random board setup, intricate player interaction, multiple scoring systems, fast tactical points, slow strategic points, controllable set collection, connectivity, competition for limited special powers, and a large dose of teeth-grinding, sweat-inducing decisions about when to withdraw from card playing and where to place palaces.
The game ended 46/44/44/40, and it was up for grabs right up until the final visit. I haven't been so completely won over by a game since Ra--another Knizia favorite. I am eagerly awaiting the reprint.
Taj Mahal finsihed just before midnight. Ten minutes later, my girlfriend asks if I want to play Keythedral. If you know me at all, you know this is not really a question, since I will play any of my games any time.
This was only our second game of Keythedral, so we were both keen to try some different strategies. In our first game, I was not happy with the tile layout, and decided that it was the cause of my loss. Oh, and because she played really well too (trust me, she isn't glaring at me right now).
We were both a bit more careful this time choosing our tile and cottage locations. Does the 2nd player always get a final cottage next to only 2 tiles? About half way through the game, I had bought significantly more Keythedral tiles than she had, giving me a 64 to 36 lead. I had also bought and used the first 4 law cards. She had cashed in several resource cubes for craft cubes, so was sitting pretty with a gold, a stained glass, and an iron cube.
At this point (about 1am), she said, "I'm hungry!" So we took a break and put together some homemade pizza. While it was cooking we continued our game. For those of you out there with non-gamer significant others, or ones who go to bed early, or who have never had pizza at 2:00am...nya nya.
After another couple of turns, I managed to pull ahead a bit more. We were now working on the "10" tiles. The tide began to turn. She had 3 fences in play, and had removed 2 of mine. She had 4 houses to my 3. I could negate them fairly well when I was the starting player, but not enough otherwise. Her pre-paid craft tiles allowed her to snatch up Keythedral tiles in early actions, while I was helplessly making trades.
In my one effort to get a craft cube ahead of the game, I traded 4 resource cubes for gold. In our game tonight, none of hte "12" tiles had any gold, so I ended up having to "trade down" to get an iron cube. Ugh.
In our first game, all the "12" tiles were composed of craft cubes. This has the unfortunate effect of making the endgame degrade so that players only need the most cubes, not any specific ones. This time, we got all the "12" tiles that contain some number of resource cubes. This made the endgame tense all the way to the final purchase. I am thinking of picking up the expansion.
She had a Price Decrease law card, and I negated it with a Price Increase law card. We didn't know how to rule this interaction, but decided that the player making the purchase could use the effects in the order of their choice. She bought the purple/white/red tile with white/red/green cubes, and still had a pile of cubes in front of her.
The final tally left me with 91 and her with 87. I was glad to see that it was possible to comeback from being so far behind with nothing more than some fence kicking and craft cube investing.
What a nice weekend. And the best part was that the winner and loser get pizza.