Saturday, May 19, 2012

Tilton: The Gathering

As this year at Tufts comes to a close, I realize I've learned some new things from my freshman dorm. And no, this isn't where the post gets sappy - it's where it gets nerdy. Over the past few months, I've been introduced to a sprinkling of awesomely nerdy pastimes, from card games to computer games. Here's the rundown.

Cards from "Magic: The Gathering"

Magic: The Gathering
One of the first trading card games in the world (launched in 1993, predating Pokemon in 1996, Yu-Gi-Oh! in 1999, etc.), "Magic: The Gathering" can be played with two or more players. Gameplay involves accumulating "land" cards (the equivalent of "lessons" in Harry Potter TCG or "energy" in Pokemon), casting spells, and placing creatures onto the battlefield. "Instants," or cards which can be played outside of a player's turn, make the gameplay particularly strategic, as does the capacity for cooperation in games with three or more players. Players begin with 20 life points and lose the game when they reach zero. Some of the students here had quite a collection of cards which we used for large weekend gatherings of enchanted dueling.

The board of "Settlers of Catan" (stock photography)

Settlers of Catan
One weekend last semester, I was headed to a show at the Balch Arena Theater on campus. If the show was "Next Fall," you can read more about that here; only "Our Class" from this semester rivaled it this year. Either way, as I headed out, I passed my RD (Resident Director), who told me he was on his way to play Settlers of Catan with other RDs. I found this funny at the time.

Sketched on a Bamboo writing tablet post-finals
Little did I realize how addicting the game could be. First introduced to it by freshman friends from Haskell and Tilton, I quickly became eager for more continent-conquering. The board game feels a little bit like Risk, with elements of Monopoly and Go Fish thrown in. It consists of building settlements and roads along the board, gathering resource cards and bartering with opponents along the way.

The five main resources are depicted in my drawing: lumber, wool, brick, ore, and grain. Or, as we called then: wood, sheep, brick, stone, and wheat. (At least everyone can agree there's a brick!) When my team (with a four-player maximum, we tend to pair up) isn't attempting to change wood into bricks (via trading or built-in conversion systems), we're usually trying to win the "Longest Road" achievement. That's +2 points for a path (not a walk!) with the most vertices, for those of you taking Discrete Mathematics.

We beat Penn in February, apparently. Gotta love that Protoss.

StarCraft II
No, I didn't learn StarCraft at Tufts, but no review of geeky games would be complete without it. Many a time I found students playing StarCraft on laptops in common rooms, with a pleasantly surprising proportion of Zerg players. For those new to the experience, StarCraft II is a 2010 installation to the futuristic computer game series from 1998. The game is known as a Real-Time Strategy, a style of third-person gameplay in which players manipulate forces and structures from bird's-eye view. Here, players select one of three races (Terran, Zerg, or Protoss) and use the features available to that race to win battles. Games consist of one to eight players, with optional AI players available.

I first began playing StarCraft (the original computer game and its expansion pack) in middle school, enjoying the ability to play online with my friends. It's good to see that a portion of the larger Tufts community seems to enjoy the same franchise. In fact, Tufts has an official StarCraft team in the Collegiate StarLeague and even earned a Daily article a while back. Doesn't look like the team's too great, though. That's alright; it's all for fun anyway.

Other Games
Of course, that isn't the end of what I've seen played here in the dorms. Skyrim, Minecraft, and Dungeons & Dragons have all made appearances. But I would certainly have to recommend Magic, Settlers, and StarCraft for the card-, board-, and video-game lovers out there. Especially if they're future Jumbos.

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