First things first: new things. I played Warhammer Online finally, and it was substantially better than other MMO's I'd played before. Mainly the interface was cleaner, the graphics a bit clearer and with a nicer art style, and a few small improvements have been made, which I don't feel like going into. I will mention Public Quests and Open Parties - the former are quests you can pick up simply by being in the area of the map where the quest is happening, and you can see NPC drama between characters unfold (like Lord of the Rings Online has, but it's not instanced), and you get a timer to let you know how long it'll be til the whole thing resets, once it's ended. Everyone who contributes to completing the PQ's objectives gets a crack at *something* - no Ninja-style theft of loot to worry about! If you contribute, you get a personal bag of loot (a choose-one scenario, there)!
Open Parties are a little similar - you can search for a group of players to join up with in the area, if it looks like they're on the same quest, but the unique thing here is that you can just join the party, *snap* like that - in time to help random strangers kill a bad guy you've been questing for. It means less work for players, less time spent bargaining with strangers just to get help with a stupid quest, and so on. I approve!
Also, okay - gear is way prettier in this game than I'm used to, in that you actually look cool fairly early on. It's Warhammer, so it's over the top, but not action-figure-goofy like in Warcraft. Very nice.
One more thing about that - it's hard to explain, but item crafting is a highly customizable process that's easy to pick up; it also has a really, really snazzy interface. I have a Chaos character who's a Butcher/Apothecary, meaning I can loot animals for special items that I can then turn into potions and salves and things. The creation process and the interface for it really make it amazing - try it!
Lastly, they have a "free forever" trial - you can't play past level 10, can't do auction-house stuff, and a couple of other things, but you can do PQs, crafting, parties, etc., AND you can have a full allotment of characters (10 per server, an unknown max), AND these trial characters never go away. Ever! Yeah!
Okay, that's enough about that. Super exciting game, though.
We played La Familia this weekend; it was set in Ankh-Morpork, of Discworld series fame, and it did not disappoint ^_^
Also - we picked up the weird-old-west card game, Doomtown (defunct since 2000, sadly) - it's funky, it uses a poker hand to resolve who goes first and who wins in combat, and you've got all kinds of crazy stuff going on - cowboys, bandits, Indians, shamans, dark wizards, walking dead, mad scientists, corrupt businessmen, radioactive coal called Ghost Rock, pirates along the quake-shattered coast of California (which is now known as the Great Maze), and so on! It's great fun.
As far as play styles are concerned, expectations, etc., my friends and I had some good talks about winning, losing, whether/when that's fun, and how to find the right type of game to accommodate everybody's interests, comfort level, and such. It seems that immersive, collaborative gaming that doesn't focus on cutthroat conflict or high-stakes challenge is the best fit; sounds good to me! We actually had a much more extensive chat than this, which included ideas for hacking Settlers of Catan into a discovery-style game with a map that's revealed over time, in-character dialogue, and lots of negotiation as to what's REALLY going on with the Robber :)
More to come!