Had the latest multiplayer game day yesterday, but only had four over: me, Dave, Patch and Jason. The general plan was to try a number of shorter games, though we didn’t have anything specific lined up, just a table full of game boxes (we—mostly Dave—have more of the shorter stuff than I thought).

Jason was arriving a bit late on the train, and Patch showed up a little early, so he and Dave played a partial game of Naval War while I fetched Jason.

After that, we eventually settled on playing a game of Enemy in Sight. It’s basically the Naval War system, but modified for the Age of Sail. I actually like it a fair bit more than the original game, since it has some deeper decisions to make (at the cost of being a noticeably more complex game), and actually feels a bit like Age of Sail combat, instead of just being a strange card game with ships. I actually had a fairly good position both rounds, getting multiple 1st Rate ships. I also managed some well-timed Refuse Battle cards that cycled ships in and out of port, and claimed a number of points on prizes. The problem was, I was a little too well off, with a decent lead at the end of the first round. Jason ended up winning by a substantial margin on the second round; I mis-timed the end of the game, and got a fifteen point penalty for having no ships on the line at the end, but that wouldn’t have actually made a difference to the standings.

After lunch, we decided to try out Candidate, which Dave had been eager to try for some time. Political themes generally don’t do a lot for me, so I hadn’t really cared about it, but it turned out to be a very good game. The general idea is that each player is a candidate seeking the party’s nomination in the US Presidential race. Each round is a (or a set of) state primary where the candidates compete to win that state and get it’s votes.

The game is quite cynical and assumes he who spends the most money in that state will win.

What makes the game so interesting is how that works. Each time, every player gets five cards, which have a variety of possible effects, from just ‘money’ (bidding on the votes), endorsements (same thing, but easier to use, and easier for someone else to torpedo), rumors (negative money), scandals (round is invalid; toss all cards and start over with your remaining hand), or deadlock (no one gets the state’s votes). Each player plays face down around the table, so going last is very important; therefore, that privilege cycles around the table (along with choosing which state(s) are up next).

There was a large amount of chaos in the first couple rounds as we started finding out what the cards would do at all. California was the first state picked, and ended up Deadlocked, making sure the initial round at the convention would be quite large. I got several good hand draws over the first half of the game, and managed to pick up a decent number of fairly small states with some brute-force maneuvering. I had much less success with the larger states, and Pennsylvania was the only largeish chunk of votes I had for quite a while. Dave and Patch did quite well after the first few rounds, and picked up some big states. Jason struggled a lot more until the later game where had caught up to me (averages being what they are, I had some truly junky hands for quite a while), and the entire race actually stayed amazingly close between all four of us.

There’s a high degree of brain burn in the game, as you have to budget your cards across 1-3 states (each resolved separately), but (especially when an important state is up) try to avoid spending all your cards in a round where a Scandal comes up and discards everything. With four players, we were going through a third to a half of the deck each time, the extra cards in a six player game would probably guarantee a couple Scandals would be available each time (instead of it being fairly likely).

At the end of the Primaries, Patch was in the lead with 128 votes followed by Dave (117), me (107) and Jason (94). There were three Deadlocked states, lead by California for a total of 92 votes up for grabs at the beginning of the Convention; whoever got that set would be in the lead. I lead with a Zero card, and hoped that someone else would play a Scandal (I actually hoped somewhat loudly). Dave did, and we went to round 2. I played my Scandal at that point, taking the contest to a third round. My cards weren’t great, but were enough to win by $10K (yeah, the game is old enough that the money is in tens of thousands…), putting me into the lead, but still short of the 270 votes needed.

Jason, having the fewest votes at this point was eliminated from the game, and his block of votes a was up for the next round. At 199, winning that would get me the 270 needed, but Patch or Dave would still be short of that total if they won. I wasn’t able to maneuver things nearly so well, and Dave got the 94 votes from Jason. Patch, at a mere 128 votes was the lowest left, and he was eliminated and his votes put up to a contest between Dave and I. My card draws continued to choke, and I just couldn’t match his money, or draw things out enough to try to exhaust his cards.

So, Dave won the party nomination with a grand total of 349 votes.

It’s a really good game, with a lot of chance and thinking to it, and is very hard to predict. I would not ever want to try playing it twice in a row, one go through really ends up with a lot of burned-out brain cells, and I wouldn’t be able to sustain it that long.