St Mary's Social Afternoon - Week 3

A game of Saboteur in full flow
This week saw some previous attendees returning from their holidays and the absence of others as they headed off. Overall the number was up by 1, however the ratio was quite different with a total of 10 youngsters and a reduction of those at the other end of the scale to a mere three.

Players involved in the Mysteries of Peking
We started the afternoon with a game of Straw on one table, Zeus on The Loose on another and The Mysteries of Peking on a third table. This last game was brought along by Daniella and family and enthusiastically played by 5 youngsters and watched by one of our older friends who came in to see what we were getting up to for half an hour. In essence Mysteries of Peking is a detective game where players look for clues to solve a crime with the ability to hamper other players.

A group watching and playing Othello
Later we moved on to play a game of Saboteur with 10 players which I believe Leonie won whilst others played Othello and Carcassonne. Interestingly not all the youngster went for the fun but light game Saboteur, preferring more thoughtful games with older players.

Castle Panic – A collaborative game 
As the afternoon continued four of us played Castle Panic an unusual game to the three young people playing with me in as much as
it is a collaborative board game where everybody is working together to defeat a common foe and where the hand of cards you have is open and available for trade with other players, generally following a discussion about the threats the team faces and how best to marshal the resources available to defeat the foe.

With the openly competitive, at time combative nature of most mainstream games available on the high street this board game introduces a radically different dynamic. One which, whilst a really fun board game, requires the players to concentrate on the emerging threats, analyse them, discuss the alternative approaches to dealing with them, move the available resources to deal with the most pressing emergency and then execute the actions discussed. A player who cannot collaborate will ultimately lead to the loss of the castle and the game for all the players.

Castle Panic, but there isn't much left of the Castle as the monsters close in
It might be reasonably argued that collaborative board games of this type, of which there are many other examples, introduce some sound educational and social principles in a such a way that the focus is on having a great gaming experience first, leaving the educational & social aspects at a more subliminal level.

Sadly as I predicted just when the monsters had been beaten back and they had only two on the board the fates worked against the valiant defenders of the castle and we succumbed to a wave of Trolls on one side and a barrage of boulders on the other. It was just like the movies when you think the heroes have won and then you jump out of your seat as the evil opponent rises again. Sadly, unlike most movies, we ultimately lost!

Straw – A maths game 
With only 20 mins left before the end on the session the group sat with me elected to have a quick game of Straw, whilst other groups played some of the other light filler games.

The box artwork for Straw
The theme behind Straw is that a camel can only carry so much in weight and each player has to place objects (each with a numeric weight attributable to it) on the back of the Camel, without taking the Camel over its limit of 50 (unless obviously you do it with the elusive and unsurpassable straw)! Each player has four cards, each card representing any one of numerous objects with a weight, magical carpets (which have a negative weight) or special cards that do things like change the order of play, copy the last object placed or allow the player to choose the weight of the object they are placing. The resulting game is great fun and has proven very popular with our evening group as a filler because it has sufficient depth in the game mechanic to allow for a variety of ways of playing your hand and dropping other players in trouble. However ultimately it is a game of tactics based on maths and my young friends enjoyed it every bit as much as the older evening gamers.

When the new faces (youngsters) were asked whether they had enjoyed their afternoon of board and card games they all responded enthusiastically in the affirmative.

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