I much prefer my first reading of this title — “Ganja” (clearly the game of farming the best bud).
Anyway, La Granja is an imperfectly cromulent game.
It works well enough, has no obvious flaws, and has nothing to recommend it besides being inoffensive.
Just had my opponent call luck when the board shows 5-9 red, I’d called bravery playfulness, gotten called, shown both and then playfulnessed into the flush (via 6-7). The dealer calls luck and draws the 8 red, giving me the straight flush. Now I have to call the straight flush, because if I just claim the floosh or flush I’m lying, and I can get called out and lose the hand (and have to pay) because I have a better hand then I claimed.
So I have to call the straight flush. Since I know my opponent doesn’t have a floosh (which I definitely had after the luck), my raise has to be real. Doesn’t it?
But what if I didn’t have the 6 red? Could I realistically call the straight flush just to bluff a panda lord and give up a pot? I don’t think so.
Still, I got called, so what do I know?
I also got called on a floosh I had revealed (because they called my abilities to prove I had the card) because “I might have thrown away the Floosh with playfullness to get a Panda Lord.”
Pandante — Not only are jokers sometimes bad, but you can lose money when you hit your straight flushes and can consider breaking up made hands.
Partner (playing Polish) opens one club (showing a variety of hands), RHO bids 1 Spade, and I bid 2 NT invitational and Partner raises to3N, which ends the auction.
LHO leads a high club and partner tables
S:Txx H:AJT9 D:AKJx C:Ax (Club 9 led) S:AQxx H:Qx D:Tx C:KTxxx
These opponents don’t seem like the type to lead 9 from QJ9(x), so I duck in dummy, I win the club ace and float the heart queen. This is IMPs, so I’m not taking to long with this hand. The queen looses to RHO’s king, and he leads the S4. I play the S3 and LHO plays the S2.
I now look at dummy carefully, and dummy has the Ten-Six-Five of spades.
I win the trick on dummy with the five, the other three cards being the 2-3-4.
We took a picture.
Playing on BBO against random chumps, I pick up the following:
S:Jx H:AKxx D:Ax C:AJTxx
I open 1NT (playing weak NT at these colors), LHO bids 1H, partner bids 1S and RHO passes. I bid 1NT (perhaps a bit heavy. I could bid 2N). Partner bids 2H checking back on my heart stopper and generally forward going. I bid 3N to show the maximum and a doubleton spade. Partner thinks a bit and bids 6 Spades.
(My) RHO leads the Club King. Since I’m on BBO, I can see partner’s hand now (you can set it to see all four as dummy, but I do this so I can think about the play).
Dummy S:Jx H:AKxx D:Ax C:AJTxx
Partner S:AKQTxxxx H:xx D:Qx C:x
Club King led
Partner quickly claims 6. I (mentally) claim 7. RHO really needs the Diamond King and 5 hearts, but even if he only has the Diamond King and four hearts, it’s a double squeeze assuming LHO has the club queen, surely a lock after the opening lead.
Win the club ace, ruff a club high, spade A, then J, ruff a club high (of course, if clubs are 4-3, you don’ t need the squeeze, so we assume theyare 5-2). Diamond ace, ruff a club back to hand and run the trumps. The position on the last trump:
H:AKx C:J H:Jxx C:Q H:Qxx D:K S:x H:xx D:Q
West has to keep the club queen, so pitches a heart. You pitch the club jack, and RHO has to keep the diamond king, so pitches a heart. Dummy is now good. Of course, the actual hand East should really have 5 hearts, so it will be a simple squeeze, but it’s easy to play as a double. In fact, one of the easiest I’ve ever encountered in real life. Practically textbook (and probably unnecessary, unless you happened to be playing in 6 No Trump, where you couldn’t ruff out clubs). But I’m pleased that I saw it almost instantly.
After the hand I ask why partner didn’t claim seven on the double. “It wasn’t worth the time to explain it to them”
I could write a lot about Pandante …. but it is a gambling game. So I’m just writing that for me to clarify my thoughts (at least near term). I will say this. If you are playing Pandante as a game, double the starting money and double the victory conditions (or maybe not double, but make them 1.5 as much). The base game can end fairly quickly with few players and you invoke the magic gold fairy too often, which feels gamey. Doubling the starting money makes it feel more like poker. The game will take longer of course. Just play until you decide you don’t want to. Like poker.
Our local game evolved a fair amount just over this weekend. I wonder how people who’ve played hundreds of hours are doing. (Another reason not to publish). Does anyone play online?
Played games — Power Grid, Glory to Rome, Concept, Tichu, Celebrities, Pandante. Concept really does have terrible cards. In what world is Jumanji a ‘medium’ concept to get via iconic charades but Pride and Prejudice hard?
“Book. Female. Love. Group. Old.” Took like 15 seconds. But the core concept is great.
As is BoJack Horseman. (The show. Bojack himself is, well, not good. I’ll probably rewatch the first season when the second season gets close to airing.)
Celebrities — ah old friend, I have missed you.
The Stock Car Championship Racing Card Game remains one of the most innovative racing game I’ve ever tried. I think of this as the McGartlin game, but until I went onto BGG I didn’t realize that was a contraction (Portmanteau?) of McLaughlin and Garton. In any case, that’s much easier to say. I think I wrote about it (fairly extensively, given its obscurity), but those words were several websites ago and do not appear to exist anymore.
But while TSCCRCG (that’s why I call it McGartlin) was innovative, it never caught on. It had innovative ideas, but many of them. It felt complex and unintuitive. In many ways, the Up Front of racing games. While I (now) flinch at the Hollywoo-esque reductive nature of “It’s X meets Y,” it remains a useful shorthand.
TSCCRCG has no map. The cards do a lot of things. The rules daunt (even me). I was never sure if I liked it. Actually, I was sure I didn’t; but I kept reading reviews about how people did a 6 player game quickly. Ours always ended up taking 3x as long. So I wondered if we were doing it right but got rid of my copy. I should play it again with a group that knows and loves it. I’d be the slow guy, but it would give the game a fair shake.
Which is a long way of saying that when people said Thunder Alley I heard McGartlin. You have a board, but each turn really represents a dozen(ish) laps. You move around the board, but a draft line could just move, move, move, move, so that half (or more) of the cars could get 6x as much movement as the other half an obviously ludicrous view if you consider this as a two lap race, but a clever abstraction of cars falling of the pack.
And the fairly simple rules left experienced gamers saying “Can I do this?” two hours into the game. I’ve looked at a Player Aid on the geek and I’m still struggling how to explain this to new players. I see a clever, interesting game; but it felt too long. Thunder Alley needs the “When it’s your turn you have 5 seconds to play a card and 20 to resolve it” meta-rule (instead of counting things out).
You have a reasonable abstraction of NASCAR, warts and all. When you pit could decide the game — you can press on and hope for a Yellow. A car in our game almost got eliminated (by being lapped in a two lap race), but then a Yellow bunched the cars up and the tail car literally move 90% of a lap in the restart. But that happens in NASCAR. The abstraction can break down in the end. A late caution meant our restart happened in a position where the cars are bunched up 1-2 plays from the finish line. One player ran a draft (perhaps not realizing the implication) which pushed half the cars in spitting distance of the finish line. Then next wave of cars are crossing, with the pusher left out because why would you drag his cars across the line?
So, my initial thought with Thunder Alley — Building a chess like racing game feels like a grail game. But once youv’e grabbed that Grail, you think “Is racing like chess?” Thunder Alley does have push your luck, but so do simpler games like Homas Tour. Thunder Alley feels like a positional chess match (If I bump this guy then run the line, I can connect up my cars and break his chain, and that’s worth wasting this entire card) combined with the luck of random events! I do enjoy the team aspect of it, it’s refreshing to have a game where second place scores 95% of the points as first (etc etc).
It may just be our first game was too crowded. With 6 (as we played) and three cars you have less control and more downtime. I could see groups playing this with two sets to get 10+ players, and If you loved the game it would be great, but I’d be backing away quickly. I’d like to try this with 4. A few less cars on the track, a higher percentage of the Fixed Fun.
Rating — Suggest (at least for a few more times) until I decide.