Battle Lines and Blind Side

Sunday night, an hour or two miraculously appeared after the boys were in bed. As my husband finished the story-reading, I delved in our well-stocked game cupboard for a new offering for the evening. After sorting through various boxes “The claim that this game plays with two is a lie” “Why do we even own games that have a 3 hour play time?” “I don’t have the 2 hours we’d need to assemble this game”, we settled on Battle Line.

It’s a lightly themed logic and planning game. It incorporates significant elements of poker (to my disadvantage — I’ve never played) in terms of winning card combinations and card counting. You also can gain an advantage by having a poker face, or being able to read your opponent’s intentions. However, there are six “suits” up to 10 cards, and a deck of “break the rules” cards which kept play interesting and unpredictable.

We both loved it. We split two games. We’re champing at the bit to play some more (although if your partner is, like mine, an optimizer, this might be an appropriate game to break out the play-timer for). It’s a small, light game, which means that it just shot to the top of our list for travel. I think it could be even more compact if you replace the “flags” with regular playing cards (they’re simply place holders). This is also the rare game that I believe will be able to handle numerous repetitions of play. There are lots of games that are fun to play 2 or 3 times, or once or twice a year. There aren’t as many games (like chess) that have much higher play potential — that can be different every time you play them, even if you play them for a year.

Then on Tuesday, a second Christmas miracle occurred. We had a free night. And we had a babysitter. I know, I know. Astonishing. Seriously, I think our last evening out together was late September. ANYWAY, I’m a sucker for a heart-warming story, so I’d really wanted to see “The Blind Side”. Ah, friends! Go see it! It is a story of radical hospitality and courage. It is a story about small and great kindnesses. It is a story about the best of people. And, most of all, it is a true story. Mom, this one is rated “K”. I was inspired and warmed by this increasingly rare vision of people behaving with love towards each other, in a family full of kindness.

I also see the movie as a challenge. I wish I had her courage and compassion.

It was awesome to spend time with my dearly beloved, and to have the time so rich. Nothing is so disappointing as making all the effort to get out, and then have your meal/movie be a total dud. These two were the opposite of dud-ish-ness!

Odin’s Ravens

Adam and I play a lot of board games. They’re our “go to” activity for date nights. After a long spree of “Roll Through the Ages” and “St. Petersburg”, I was finally up for a new game. Adam has been trying to talk me into Odin’s Ravens for well over a year now. It was marketed as a good two-person games.

Fun two person games are actually harder to come by than you might think. There are classic games like Chess and Go. But most of the builder-games I most enjoy work best for 3 – 4 people. Games that are meant for 3 – 4 people may claim that they work for 2, but rarely do — which is why we enjoyed RTTA and St. Pete’s so much.

The conceit of Odin’s Ravens is good — you’re two of Odin’s, er, ravens, trying to traverse the landscape of the North quickly. To accomplish this, you mess with your competitor, line up your travel route, play some politics on the side and put down a cache of cards to be used later. When one person has accumulated 12 points (12 spots ahead of the other person) the game ends.

The artwork was really lovely. The rules were clear and simple. Simple enough, actually, that we’re thinking about modifying it for Grey. If we stripped it down a little further, he could get it.

But if you have two relatively evenly matched players (which my husband and I usually are), you tend to have close races. And close races means no one gets many more points than the other. So a game that was billed as a 30 minute match took us closer to an hour and a half. I have to admit that, towards the end, I was getting a bit bored. There just weren’t infinite possible strategies, like some other games seem to have.

Odin’s Ravens seems like a good intro game — the sort you play with a younger player, or someone who is unused to board games and needs to be coaxed into the fold. Unless we both totally missed a strategic element, it’s probably not the board game for a pair of hardcore players.