Thursday session: Hart an der Grenze, Funny Fishing, cards

Ubongo Mini box

The second Thursday session drew six players, then two latecomers. We could use more, but this was certainly enough to get games going. It was nice to see some new faces. We warmed up with a quick round of Ubongo Mini, which is indeed a rather good for that purpose.

Funny Fishing box

My dear friends at Marektoy had sent me a shipment of their new releases, so it was time for some new games. Funny Fishing is a fishing-themed game for kids. The game consists of 20 strings, with a fish in one end and a fishing rod in the other. The strings are jumbled on the board to make a mess.

A tile depicting one of the fish is turned up. Each player tries to locate the fish (there are two of each), then follow the string to the rod and point to it. When everybody is either pointing to a rod or has given up, people pull their rods and see what they caught. Catching the correct fish can be rather difficult in the early game!

Fishing was fun and I was rather unbeatable, but I think the game’s going in the pile I have stored for later use — it’s just not fun enough with just adults. I do think Funny Fishing is pretty good for mixed groups with both adults and children, and I’m definitely keeping this for Nooa.

Hart an der Grenze box

Hart an der Grenze got a beating from the Leppävaara game club folks earlier — they claimed the game was practically broken. I must say disagree! While I’m not a huge fan of bluffing and guessing and thus not a big fan of this game, I still think it works well enough.

The basic idea is to stuff your luggage with 1-5 cards and then claim to sheriff, one of the players, that your luggage contains only legitimate imports: sombreros, maracases or jugs. Sheriff chooses one player to inspect. If the contents of the luggage don’t match the declaration, the player will be fined. Of course, it’s possible to bribe the sheriff and keep the contents…

The game’s designed so that the optimal solution for both players is to bribe — that way the smuggler gets to keep the goods and avoid fines, while the sheriff can get money (sheriff won’t get the fines). Of course, the question is how much should the bribe be? If the bribe’s too small, sheriff may get annoyed and the smuggler will suffer a loss of goods and a fine, but if the bribe’s too large, the sheriff will be left without any income.

Of course, the game’s indeed pretty bad if everybody is constantly stuffing their bags with five cards (and thus obviously smuggling something illegal) — that way the sheriff has no particular reason to doubt anybody as everybody’s definitely cheating. There’s less decision-making and more luck. The problem is worse with more players — with five players importing goods, the chance of being inspected is fairly small.

We had six players, but none of that automatic five card behaviour. In our game, had someone played five cards in their luggage, it would’ve been an automatic inspection. Typically people played only three cards, four if they were adventurous. Everything worked well. Of course, the game should be able to manage all sorts of behaviour from the players, but as Hart an der Grenze is definitely an experience game, I don’t think it’s not too much to ask from the players… Of course, if everybody feels playing five cards each turn is the best strategy, then they should probably be playing something else.

Enough rambling! The game looks splendid — players each get a beautiful, colourful tin box for their luggage — and is definitely fun. If one’s looking for light entertainment with bluffing and haggling, I’m not sure I can come up with a better game.

Then it was time for some traditional card games. We played Briscola (Geek’s pretty inconsistent with card games: adding new ones is against the rules, yet there are plenty of standard pack card games in the database), which is apparently one of the more popular games in Italy. We played with three players, which isn’t the most popular way to play it, though…

Briscola is an ace-ten trick-taking game with no tens, basically. Aces and threes are high and worth 11 and 10 points, court cards are worth few points each. There’s a trump suit, but no need to follow suit or other obligations. What’s most different about the game is the three-card hand, which makes the game really stand out from the trick-taking games where the whole pack is distributed to the players initially.

Briscola was rather fluid, I enjoyed it. It’s not the deepest game (though the five-player Briscola Bastardo is deeper; but it’s almost a different game), but rather good for quick matches. As the game plays with any number of players from two to six, it’s a useful game to know. I’ll definitely play it again.

Sueca is another ace-ten game without tens. This one’s a partnership game for four. Winning the hand scores one, two or four game points. The game is played to four points, so it’s a quick one. It’s also rather simple, with not many thrills. It was nice, but as there’s nothing really outstanding about it, I probably won’t play the game again.

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