It’s All Fun And Games

Back to work after a great weekend. Troma Night was particularly successful this week – we watched a RiffTrax‘d copy of Eragon (“Get your ragons online at e-ragon!”), which was suitably hilarious; the classic bit of self-deprecating sci-fi that is Barbarella (“Hmm… camp bad guy number 104… how will Barbarella get past this one? Oh; using sex. What a surprise!”); and Human Traffic, which is what Trainspotting could have been if it wanted to appeal to the 24 Hour Party People demographic. Kinda.

That’s three mediocre-to-good films, plus a RiffTrax on one of them. That’s pretty good stamina for Troma Nights these days. After the last film had finished, everybody stood up and meandered towards the door, chatting as they went about the various recent events (floods, terrorism, blah blah) that had been going on. Then stopped walking. Then kept talking. “Well, I’m sitting down again,” I said, after awhile, and so did everybody else. And so, for the first time in years, a 3-film Troma Night ended with everybody sat around chatting for half an hour or more. Which is fab: Troma Night’s always supposed to have been about the people (not the films, the beer, or the pizza, which jointly come about second), and actually stopping to pass time at the end of a night was a fun and unusual reminder of what we’re all really here for.

Then on Sunday we had a low-key but “different” Geek Night. We only had Matt P, Claire and me, so we took the opportunity to learn and try out a handful of the games from the Playing With Pyramids book and Treehouse sets Claire had gotten from Looney Labs (creators of Chrononauts and Fluxx, amongst other things). Aside from Treehouse itself (which is an easy-to-learn and short game – with perhaps a little too much luck – that gets you used to playing with the pyramids), we played Icehouse, Homeworlds, and RAMbots.

Icehouse is the original Icehouse strategy game – a real-time (no, not simultaneous turn: actually real-time – players can all perform legal moves whenever they like) board game, which is somewhat unusual. Icehouse is fun, but I think it would work better with more players, more diplomacy, and more thoughtful strategy than we were executing.

Homeworlds is a stunningly-clever turn-based game of space strategy, diplomacy, exploration, and conquest. There’s a few things in it that make you have to think quite hard (such as the way that the hyperspace system works, the fact that the orientation, not the colour, of a piece implies it’s ownership, and the difference between free and sacrificial actions). Not to mention the secret alignments of the players. This game’s been running through my head ever since we played (I’ve just come up with a strategy that I should have done in the last three turns to lead me to a victory that would have been particularly brutal).

Finally, RAMbots – which I quite liked, but which I think could be ludicrously good fun with four players – is a simultaneous-turn based game of secret orders, which reminds me slightly of the ship-to-ship combat in Yo-Ho-Ho! Puzzle Pirates! or Space Fleet. Players each secretly “program” their robots using instructions from their “limited” code pool and execute them in a way that will seem instantly familiar to any computer scientists who play it (at least, those who are familiar with ideas like priority queues, program counters, and parallel processing), and shouldn’t be so hard for others to learn, too. These robots can drive around the board (actually a chessboard) trying to activate and ram “beacons” in an order chosen by the player to their right, but it’s also possible to ram, push, pull, tip up, and shoot at the other robots too… causing damage lets you “steal” from their instruction set, making it harder for them to write effective programs… and so it goes on.

We’ll be having another Geek Night on Friday, if you want to join in: we’ll be playing more of these four games (and perhaps some other bits of pyramid-related fun), and maybe even a game or Illuminati, if it’s not too late by the time it (and it’s carriers) arrive.