Monday, July 28, 2014

Landing at the Landing

On Friday night, I returned to the Landing, my usual weekly stop for boardgaming action. I haven't been in attendence for many weeks, being too tired from a long week of work and class and just wanting to crash at home.

I finally got to crack open my new copy of Panic on Wall Street! In the game, players are either investors or managers. The managers are pitching companies for sale to the investors. The investors are, well, investing, in the companies. Deals are made and broken at a break-neck pace, in real-time, over a two-minute timer. When the timer ends, dice are rolled to determine the value of the companies (red companies are high-risk; blue companies are low-risk, with green and orange companies in between). The investors then make their money (or lose their money!) on the adjusted value of the companies, then they pay the managers. The managers then pay upkeep on their companies. Then new companies get auctioned off to the managers. Then the whole thing repeats four more times. There are two winners: the investor with the most money, and the manager with the most money.

Panic!, much like Space Cadets: Dice Duels, is a frantic game of screaming at each other that's devilishly, chaotically entertaining. It's one of those games you want to play when you want to make a scene; the collective moans of agony and howls of joy when your high-risk investment in red companies pays off; the manager with a monopoly on orange companies who insists he's the place to go if you want to make money; the other manager trying to hide his or her desperation to close on a good deal; the frantic grabbing at the safe blue companies; the wail of despair when an investor finds out that literally at the last second he's been undercut by competitors, and his air-tight investment plan is now nothing. Much like Dice Duels, it's the pure, undistilled chaos of human interaction, blended with a light glaze of strategic planning, topped off with a generous amount of sheer luck. In other words, exactly the kind of game I'm looking for these days.

It was so much fun, we played two games of it, back-to-back. It's always a good sign of a game's quality when the exact same group of people want to play the exact same thing twice in a row. That's not something that happens too often at the Landing (in fact, I can only think of one other game it's ever happened to with me: Arctic Scavengers). The majority of the dozens and dozens of folk who show up at this thing usually regard boardgaming like speed-dating; knock out a game, move onto the next game, knock that one out, onto the next one, and so on, all night.

It's kind of annoying sometimes, really. The next game I wanted to play was Last Night on Earth, the zombie survival classic I've never had a chance to really try out. Two players completely new to the scene...a lovely couple who just moved to the area from Ohio...brought it and were excited to give it a go. But several players, noting that it's running time was well over an hour, turned their noses up at in favor of the usual Landing suspects: Dixit. Coup. Avalon. King of Tokyo. Nothing wrong with those games, of course. But it is a little annoying how everyone treats a game longer than 60 minutes with a certain amount of disdain, as if all that mattered on Friday nights was to get in as many games as possible. On a certain level, I understand the logic...playing with strangers, taking a gamble on spending hours with them, taking another gamble on one game that you may or may not like...but that's a game in itself, right? Much like the stock market game we just played, sometimes you gotta take a big risk for a big reward. The reward in this case was playing a great game and making new friends.

I did stick with Last Night on Earth with this new couple. And I had a pretty good time. I hope they did, too. I hope to see them again next week. As for Panic On Wall Street!? It may be time to bring that game into the conference room for lunch in the office this week...

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