I met with my board games group for a few hours in the evening. Last time we met, we tried playing RoboRally, the game we started with years ago. RoboRally is fun, but I think we must be playing wrong because we've never actually finished a game. Basically everybody is dealt cards they use to move their robots through a hostile map, towards the goal of picking up flags - first robot to touch them all wins. Half the challenge/fun is stepping through the moves, because robots can interfere with each other. For example, if your robot moves into a square before my robot does, mine will push yours out of the way. Meanwhile, your robot will continue executing moves, with other unintended side effects. After nearly three hours of play, five people picked up the first flag (including me), and only one had picked up the second.
Tonight, we broke out Starfarers of Catan, which we hadn't played in ages. It took a good hour to setup and review the rules, and separate the zillion little pieces that go along with the game. Like the other Catan games, Starfarers involves rolling dice to randomly produce resources, using those resources to buy upgrades, and exploring and colonizing the map. You can also establish trade relations with alien species, represented by cards that give bonuses. My big break was setting up trade and picking a bonus that gave me extra resource production. This wound up being the deciding factor as I was then able to out-produce everyone else and coast in for the victory.
I almost blundered away the game by setting up another trade route and choosing the wrong card! Not that the bonus it conferred was bad - if I would have chosen another one, the game would have ended at least four rounds earlier. Instead, I gave an opponent several more turns to catch up and try to pass me, which he almost did. My victory came almost accidentally - I was attacked (random encounter from a deck of cards) and the aftermath awarded me a victory point, which gave me the necessary total for winning.
The games group is fading away - after I leave it will be down to just three of the original people. We joke about playing some games via email, but I can't think of any good ones like that. The three that will be left are all really huge into World of Warcraft, so I suspect they will fill the time by playing more WoW. ;)