The International House of Johnson was full of gamers last night! Miscellaneous G™, Chris Miller, Gus and Jeff (another new addition to the crew) assembled for Game Night. We didn’t get started as early as planned, so we ditched Arkham Horror in favor of something a little lighter: Chez Geek 3: Block Party from Steve Jackson Games.
Chez Geek is an absolute riot. The players are all roommates in a single apartment, seeking to goof off as much as possible in order to win the game. The prime commodity in Chez Geek is Slack, which can be accumulated through such activities as surfing the Net, sleeping, watching television and the even-popular nookie. There’s also Slack to be had through conspicuous consumption — buying books, booze, food, weed and other stuff — and just hanging out with friends.
Each player has a Job that defines his or her Free Time, Income and Slack Goal. Some Jobs, such as the Slacker, have loads of Free Time but very little Income while Jobs like Corporate Drone offer a high Income but not much Free Time. Cards granting Slack or inhibiting a roommates’ ability to acquire Slack are played from the hand, which is replenished at the beginning of each turn.
We played Chez Geek twice; once with four players and the second time with six. The first game was over fairly quickly, but the second went quite a bit longer.
- Security Guard (me) – This guy doesn’t have to spend Free Time when he plays Sleep cards. That’s a nice perk; unfortunately I didn’t draw a single Sleep card the entire game.
- Slacker (Jeff) – Truly shiftless, the Slacker sacrifices Income for Free Time. He can play a lot of Activity cards each turn, but his low Income makes for some pretty pathetic shopping trips. He’s kind of like the brother-in-law who crashes on your couch for six weeks after Spring semester, playing Xbox instead of getting a damn job.
- Tech Support (Chris) – This poor sap is the polar opposite of the Slacker; the tech support rep has an above-average Income but almost no Free Time. On the bright side, he can play Computer Games or Surf the Net without using Free Time.
- Web Designer (Miscellaneous G™) – Not a bad gig, if you can get it. The Web Designer gets a Slack bonus whenever one of his roommates plays a Surf the Net card.
The game had a promising start for me. I made a call to my buddy, Mr. Enthusiastic, and he was more than happy to come over. Then I went shopping for some booze, in the form of a White Russian (I do love the Kahlua).
Alas, Mr. Enthusiastic is a fickle fellow; he bounced from one room to another throughout the game, taking his 2 Slack with him. Any time a roommate managed to acquire 3 or more Slack in a turn, they had a good chance of wooing Mr. Enthusiastic away from another player. Before the first turn was over, Mr. Enthusiastic was long gone from my room. To add insult to injury, he was replaced by Can’t Handle It Guy, a pantywaist who rendered my delicious liquor completely useless.
Thanks to a couple of lousy die rolls, I didn’t get rid of the booze-inhibiting Can’t Handle It Guy until late in the game, and I never really recovered from the initial one-two punch I got in the first turn.
Meanwhile, Jeff the Slacker was feeling the pain of having almost no Income. He discarded a couple of high-price items, including the Wide-Screen TV, but managed to Surf the Net (giving Miscellaneous G™’s Web Designer bonus Slack) and score some Cast Party Nookie.
Chris managed to hold his own, playing a couple of Surf the Net cards, using his Free Time to shop for Used CDs and then coaxed Mr. Enthusiastic out of my room.
Unfortunately, all the net surfing proved to be our undoing; every click of the mouse added Slack to Miscellaneous G™’s total. A couple of turns, some Power Outage Nookie and a bottle of Old Ragnarok later, the Web Designer was only one point away from victory… and then Mr. Enthusiastic showed up with two more Slack points. Game Over.
- Corporate Drone (Jeff) – This all too familiar lackey makes a lot of dough, but has very little Free Time. He’s also got the highest Slack Goal of any Job in the game.
- Waitstaff (Chris) – Ah, food services. You work your butt off trying to make a buck, but in the end your fortune falls to the whim of the diner. Income for this Job is variable, like your tips. On the bright side, the Waitstaffer gets one bonus Slack for every Sleep card he plays.
- Envelope Stuffer (Laura) – It’s not the most exciting Job in the world (nor the best paying by far), but it has its benefits: the Envelope Stuffer doesn’t use free time to play TV cards.
- Bike Messenger (Miscellaneous G™) – The nice thing about being a Bike Messenger is that Free Time and Income are perfectly balanced. The not so nice thing is that they’re both pretty low. The Bike Messenger also gets a bonus for playing Weed cards.
- Graphic Artist (me) – The money is decent, but Free Time is almost nonexistent. Why does the Graphic Artist get a bonus for playing Weed and Cigarette cards? Who knows, man? Who knows?
- Pizza Delivery Driver (Gus) – Like the Waitstaffer, the Pizza Delivery Driver’s Income is variable. He also gets a discount when purchasing Food. Yum!
This game had more of a Screw Your Neighbor feel than the first round. We had two additional players and everyone was more than happy to stick it to their fellow apartment-dwellers.
Chris managed to make himself a target early in the game by amassing a lot of Slack very quickly. Victory was well within his reach, so we all started ganging up on him. Laura hit him with cards that blocked his attempts to Sleep and anyone with a TV card in their hand was quick to cancel most of his other activities.TV is unique among the Activity cards in that it can be used to cancel an opponent’s activities. “I think you’ll watch History Science Theatre Y2K instead of going shopping…” or “Going to get some Nookie? I don’t think so. Looks like you’ll be watching a marathon of The Why-Files.” They’re good for thwarting attempts to play high-Slack cards, but they still give the thwartee one Slack point.
Laura and Gus were also formidable opponents, and both had victory within arm’s length multiple times. Gus was taking full advantage of the Pizza Delivery Driver’s discount on Food cards; he was able to play several of them for free, but his feeding frenzy was cut short when Hungry Girl invaded his room and raided the fridge. Laura, in the meantime, was proving to be quite the lush, downing both a White Russian and a bottle of Old Ragnarok. She combined her love of libations with an affinity for NT Server Doccos, certainly an odd combination. Even so, she didn’t quite manage to drink her way to a win.
I suppose I should blame myself for the outcome of the game. In my final turn (how could I have known), I played Chinese Fire Drill, forcing all players to pass their hands to the player on their left. This left Gus with a couple of my cards that he quickly put to use, but we were all still keeping an eye on Chris, who looked to be on the cusp of snatching the golden ring.
We should have been watching Jeff, whose turn fell between Gus and Chris. Sure, he had an impossibly high Slack Goal and almost no Free Time at all… until he got Gus’ hand. Jeff played Get a Life, giving him three Free Time but preventing him from playing Sleep or TV cards. He also played Jonesing and stole some of Gus’ yet-unscarfed Food. The rest of us had been so intent on stopping Chris that we had little left in reserve to stop Jeff. He stole, shopped, and sexed his way to a seven-point, game-winning Slackathon and all we could do was watch.