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Joel's Birthday Party
25 March 2000

Photos Joels Birthday Pictures


On March 25th, one day after my 39th birthday, Daphne threw me a gaming party in honor of my birthday.

Gaming parties are a tradition in the Gould household. We usually hold one at the beginning of January around Daphne's birthday, and one towards the end of March around my birthday.

This party was an especially enjoyable one. The turnout was good. We counted nineteen adults and eight children at dinner time when we ordered pizza. Others had come earlier in the day and left before dinner. There were always plenty of people to play games or just to chat with.

I got to play every game that I wanted. I started off by playing settlers in space (Sternferers von Catan), a game which the Meeks brought. I actually enjoy this variant of settlers a lot, and do not get to play it much as I would like since we do not own a set. I am personally waiting until Mayfair games publishes the English edition since there are lots of cards which have to be translated from the German. The game took quite a while, and a couple of us had a chance to win until the end when C---- pulled off a victory.

I think that this variant of settlers has more variety in the play than the standard settlers game, which increases the opportunities to score points and makes it more competitive for everyone down the homestretch. I have played this game four times now, and have not decided on what the optimal strategy is.

I also wanted to play Tigris and Euphrates today, a game that I do not get to play very often since Daphne does not enjoy it. But today, I got to play the game twice and won both times. I like Tigris and Euphrates a lot. It is very tactical since the board changes so much between turns, and there are a lot of potential things that you can do on your turn. Some people do not like Tigris and Euphrates because the rules are somewhat confusing, and it involves a lot of thinking. But I think that the game is very elegantly designed and a lot of fun to play (of course, the fact that I often win probably helps).

Surprisingly, in both games of Tigris and Euphrates that we played today the victory scores were very low. I won the first game with only five bricks in my weakest color. This is unusual since in many games the winner often has more than 10 bricks in their weakest color. I think that most of the players were going after treasures that caused the game to be shorter than usual. (A quick scan of the gaming reports on the Billabong web site leads me to believe that most games are higher scoring.)

Dean brought his Falling game, and we played a couple of rounds in the late afternoon. I actually did quite good in Falling, which meant that I had to deal more than once (the winner of each round the dealer for the next round). Unfortunately, when Dean left he took his Falling game with him so that we could not play again. But he did leave the rules behind :-)

Later in the evening we were wondering who worked closest to Games People Play in Harvard Square so that both Daphne and Linda could get copies of the Falling game for themselves. Of course, some people pointed out that you could just as easily order it over the Web, but that does not provide the satisfaction of having the game in your hands immediately (and being unable to play it since it works best with a moderately large group).

I discovered an expansion set for Samarkand called Isfahan (wow, Dragon NaturallySpeaking does have that word in the backup dictionary). The expansion set is very simple, and can be ordered for free from your favorite games vendor. Instead of waiting, I simply duplicated the materials myself using our color printer.

In the Isfahan expansion set for Samarkand, the marketplaces are randomized instead of being fixed in location. Whenever you sell commodities at a marketplace, that marketplace is swapped with the closed market. This causes the marketplaces to move around adding an extra element of strategy (or confusion) to the game. We played one round with the new rules and everyone agreed that it made the game better than before.

I then introduced a group of players to the choice of By Hook or By Crook, an elaborate game of scissors-paper-stone. It's a fun game with five players and everyone seemed to enjoy it, including Cathy who came out on top (but not by much).

Usually at the gaming parties, we start play the Great Dalmuti (whoops, I had to add that word to the vocabulary) around 9:30 or so, when the population of the party starts to drop. This day, although we did start playing the Great Dalmuti finally, we still had enough people at the end to have three games going at the same time. I guess it was good evening for everyone.

(Joel's comments were dictated by voice using Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Everyone else has to type.)

As always, I took a lot of pictures for your enjoyment. But this year, I also asked people to contribute their own thoughts to the following party journal.

Party Journal

Ben: The Sour Patch Kids are a hit. At 2:15 the kids came up from downstairs and found these small candies yummy. I hope they don't run out before the end of the party!

Ben: Hey! They're still there. The Sour Patch Kids haven't been touched from the time the kids left (2:20) till 3:10. That means more for me, Yippy! :-)

Amos: So Ben asked me to write something. Actually I'm not witting this, Ben wrote it for me, but still, I can say I'm having fun!

C---: I won Settlers in Space!!!

Alex: Ben and I don't have much to do. We take up the time by eating, but I'm still bored.

Alex: Still bored.

Ben: The kids and I started watching a movie at around 5:00. At 6:00 we stopped for pizza.

Dean here … going with the flow in Ursuppe – not trying to avoid damage, just holding on to as many amoebas as I can. I was considerably ahead at first, but now everyone is catching up.
P.S. Happy birthday, Joel.

Nat: The fattest (er, fittest) has survived. After trailing Dean's reproduce-like-a-microbic-bunny strategy the entire game, I finally passed him with my best-offense-is-a-good-defense tactic. Ursuppe is a remarkably balanced game. I find it annoying at times, but give it credit: there are many ways to win, and it's never clear which one is the right way in a given game.

Roger: This was a lot of fun. My only regret is that I did not bring my voice files so that I could dictate something longer. Gotta go. Thanks for inviting me.

Keith: Cyd is pregnant! She is due in Mid-August, and we are expecting ... a human. We have been pestering folks with all sorts of questions about day care and such. It has taken a great deal of patience and talent to tease information out of all the very close-mouthed people here – all none of them. In reality, we have been bombarded with great hunkering herds of helpful knowledge.

Chuck: Finally after years of lurking around Settlers games at Dragon, I finally got a chance to play. I managed to win the game through beginner's luck and helpful advice from the front runners. But before I bore you to death with that, let me tell you about how my lemonade stand in my caverns of woe defeated the master spies and allowed me to conquer the Before I kill you, Mr. Bond game. By the way, it looks like the tabletop shuffleboard was reasonably popular with the kids, so we're glad we brought it.

Paula: I learned two games: Samarakand and the art auction game (what was it's name?) [Ed: ByHook or By Crook], and really enjoyed the second one. If Terry hadn't stolen one of my key cards, I would have won! It was great seeing Duffy, Liz, Terry, Dave (aka Bert), Chuck and Dean. So what game should I learn next?

Duffy: So many people I love to see and talk with. I got into a little bit of trouble with my fellow Fast Food players because I was always engaged in conversation and never noticed when people landed on my properties. I did make my $1,000,000 though after a long struggle.

Duffy again: We choose this occasion to let it be publicly known that we're hoping for a new baby in Sept 2000. Jill wore her Big Sister sweatshirt. I didn't detect anyone who picked up the news from that hint alone. Many people did find out for the first time though, today. The Brezinskis will deliver sooner, and I'm so excited to have another similar-aged playmate for my child in the community. O' course with our moving to Toronto in May 2000 before this baby even comes, the community is perhaps an overly abstract concept.

Bert: help me! They're holding me hostage and won't let me leave unless I submit to some humiliating finger-torture ritual while staring at a bright white light! Seriously, Settlers of Nuremberg worked really well and had a great match of Ursuppe.

To the tune of "King of the Road":
  Dot com for sale or rent,
  You could be president.
  Can't tell you what we do
  We ain't got no revenue
  Ah but….
  Three hours of sleep a night
  Builds a me-too Web Site
  We're a going concern don't you know
  Till we IPO!

Mari & Jonathan: Well, as always, it was a pleasure! There's not a better place in the Boston area to learn new games or to get strategy opinions (no matter how hard you try not to). Happy Birthday, Joel!

Jim: Samarkand is a good short game, and the "X" variant is a winner.

Rena and Terry: Nice to have a new game for after our Shabbos meals. "By Hook or by Crook" is a good option. "Quarto" is also fun, for a short time.

Scott: First time playing "Settlers of Nurnberg" (yes, yet another Siedler's variant.) Different from regular Settlers (but not as different as Starfarers.) It was a close game particular between Anthony and me, but I eked out a victory.

Rena & Terry: Thanks much for the fun time! Nice to learn some new games. Happy Birthday!!!

Daphne: As always the gaming closes down at 11:00. I finally reach the pinnacle of Dalmutihood and Joel makes everyone leave. I so much wanted to enjoy the comfortable seat. :0

This web page (http://www.gouldhome.com/JoelsBirthday.html) was last updated on March 25, 2000. For any comments or suggestions about the site contact Daphne Gould. Contents copyright © 1999-2003 by Joel and Daphne Gould.