January to June 2004



Jun 30, 2004

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Tal, Saarya, Alan, Yitzchak

A huge thank you to Alan who brought us our game order from the U.S. New games:

  • San Juan (2 copies)
  • Through the Desert
  • Tigris and Euphates
  • El Grande Expansions
  • Goa

as well as Attika and Puerto Rico for Yaron and Yitzchak. And thanks to Sharon, Yitzchak, Nadine and David K for contributing. Any others still welcome (hint hint).

We unwrapped and started a game of San Juan at 6:35, Yitzchak came as we started playing, and watched.

San Juan

Tal/Nadine: 34, Jon: 33, Saarya: 30, Alan: 25

San Juan is a card game that is nothing like Puerto Rico, except for some chrome, some artwork, and some of its round mechanism. Even the round mechanism, which involves governor, roles, etc… does not feel the same, since the order of who does what is completely irrelevent.

The game feels somewhat like the building part of Citadels minus all the bad parts: no assassination and no boring buildings. The building are all complicated, which means interactions between them are fun and challenging to remember each turn. It would have been nice if they were all patterned or colored by phase, so you could check which buildings apply each phase (they do say in block letters on the card).

The biggest problem seemed to be that the person who builds the most big buildings wins, followed by the next most, etc… That was what happened to us. However, like Prince of Florence, where everyone has the opportunity to bid up the Jesters, it seems likely that unless you never see a big building the whole game, most people will have a fairly good chance at building some of these buildings.

Of course, we didn’t really know what we were doing, so the game was wild. Eventually, the team of Tal and Nadine scored two big buildings (City Hall for 10 and the monument guy for 6), I scored City Hall for 9 and two Chapels for +2 each, Saarya had Palace for 6, and Alan had Palace for 5.

Definitely want to play this a few dozen times more. Everyone asked me when I’ll start making new cards πŸ™‚

Through the Desert

Yitzchak: 64, Jon: 64, Saarya: 63, Alan: 41, Tal: 38

The crown of our purchase was this game, available for a few minutes on [http://www.timewellspent.org] . Tigris and Euphrates will also see play, but this one is still OOP, and therefore a better catch. I don’t think we’ll end up playing the third Knizia biggie, Samurai, seeing as one third of the pieces are Buddha figurines. 😦

Through the Desert is described as multiplayer Go, but it’s not really. Yes, you are placing pieces to section off areas, but that is a small part of the game; also, one of the main elements of Go is that you can place a piece anywhere on the board, which you can’t in TtD, which means the play is totally different.

You can score points by stepping on puddles, touching trees, and playing the most camels of a color. The sectioning off is not a huge factor in a five player game (probably a lot more so in 2 or 3 player).

Starting with no familiarity with the game, Saarya ended up with a strong sectioning off position on three corners/sides. Yitzchak abandoned two of his camels, allowing him to score big in two colors, while I had the ridge area and one color. I also managed to hit all the oases once. Then we remembered you could hit them once for each color, but the game ended before I could get in one more.

Amun Re

Yitzchak: 38, Alan: 34, Jon: 29, Saarya: 28, Nadine: 23

This was Yitzchak’s evening, as I introduced him and Alan and Nadine to Amun Re, since all of the spanking new games were made for 4 players.

I had run after run of phenomenally bad luck with the cards, drawing nothing but bidding cards and duplicates of useless scoring cards for my first several cards, after which I couldn’t afford anything anymore. I capped it by drawing 3 cards in the last round, all the same (meaning that I could only play one) and playing a scoring card which didn’t mean what I thought it did (I thought it meant all one side of the Nile, but it meant all next to or away from the Nile).

I still managed third by a squeak; mostly because I fully understood the scoring mechanisms better than the others, so they didn’t fight me for most pyramids on one side of the Nile (they also ended up with some useless cards, not realizing fully that they couldn’t play duplicates). Nadine finished the first half with only one point. Yitzchak fought me for most pyramids in the second half, but I made it more worth his while to complete his sets, which he did. Alan fought bravely, but was also outdone by Yitzchak in a crucial brick battle.

And now we say goodbye to Alan for a year. Good luck in your travels, and come back safe and sound. See the rest of you next week


Jun 23, 2004

Participants: Jon, Roy, Saarya, Yitzchak, Yedidya, Sharon, Rachel A

Wallenstein

Yitzchak 52, Saarya 46, Roy 34, Jon 30

Roy brought over Wallenstein, a Eurogame of resource allocation, territory control, development and direct conflict. The theme is the 30 year war over a map of Germany divided into 5 sections of provinces. My review on BGG:

Rating: 7

I don’t generally like wargames AT ALL, and I despise dice based combat. This is still a very good game, blending Eurogaming concepts: event cards, resource allocation, actions, etc… with light conflicts. It is only 6 turns long, and you can only initiate 2 conflicts per turn, which means that a lot of it is about the other stuff.

The drawbacks: if you fall behind, you are likely to stay behind, one of the insufferable problems in many wargames. Wallenstein plays quickly, however, so you don’t have to suffer much.

The other is the random factor involved in conflict – not dice, but a cute little tower that you throw your armies into, some of which fall out again. Not my thing, but the best I’ve seen in non-deterministic conflict, so far. It is at least quick (not a long series of rolls) – but still feels unfair and silly when the outcome is grossly skewed in one direction. That’s wargames for you, take it or leave it.

You get 10 set actions each round, which you allocate to 10 different provinces you control, so you can either build armies here and attack from there, or the reverse, but you can’t build armies and attack from one area, etc… You can do much less than you want to, which is a minor headache, but this only becomes a huge headache when you really HAVE to do more than you are allowed.

Anyhoo …

The first half was fairly uneventful. Saarya started off all in the south, while I was spread over the board, and Yitzchak was primarily to the north. Yitzchak ended up ahead at the first half: Yitzchak 24, Jon 15, Saarya 14, Roy 10.

Then Roy and I made a non-aggression pact at one area of the board so we could concentrate on taking down Saarya and Yitzchak, who made their own pact in another area.

By the end of the fifth round, I was telling Saarya that he should break the pact with Yitzchak or he would just waltz to victory … (The following is my whining and excuses, so pay no heed) … by which I did not mean to violate the pact immediately, but to inform Yitzchak that the pact would no longer apply to future battles.

At the end of the sixth round, I left myself completely open near Roy, trying to take out Saarya and Yitzchak, when Roy unilaterally wiped out my half of the board in violation of our pact, to which I got slightly incensed in the real world; my understanding being that the formation of a pact is only breakable if a) given warning that the pact is over on the next turn or at least b) that it was implied that pacts are breakable at will and unenforcable. I guess I felt like I was playing a game where the actual rule of the game was unknown to me. If I came into the game knowing that pacts are unenforcable, I would at least have played with the possibility in mind, My position near Roy was deliberately left open.

I know everyone else out there is laughing at me, but the truth is, I wouldn’t have minded at all if I at least understood that violating a pact is legitimate. I didn’t really whine that much (I couldn’t, after berating Ben for whining a few weeks ago); I leave it up to Roy and Yitzchak to confirm or deny my words. Next time I’ll get a firm understanding before the game begins!

(Addendum: to be fair, there was also no implication made that pacts DID have to be stuck to; it was simply my concept of gaming. Roy and Yitzchak certainly have different assumptions, being veteran wargamers, so Roy did not know that my assumptions were what they were.

Another addendum: Another controvertial issue from last week, is when Alan used an opportunity at the end of a game to attack Yitzchak, doing himself no good, but simply because Yitzchak attacked him earlier. This is a longstanding unresolved issue in gaming: if you can’t win with your last move, what is the “right” or “fair” play? If Alan was doing it because he was roleplaying, that seems fair and natural. If he was doing it because he was maximimzing his position relative to the leader, that also seems “right” somehow. If he was doing it as a meta-game issue to try to discourage Yitzhak from attacking him in future games, that seems “wrong” somehow. But it is hard to pin down.)

Anyway, Saarya, having been left alone by Roy, jumped ahead, but not quite enough to catch up to Yitzchak, who ended with a peaceful victory. Roy’s decimation of my position reversed out final standings, bringing him into third place.

Puerto Rico

Rachel 57, Yedidya 45, Sharon ???

While we were halfway through, Yedidya showed up, a wholly new attendee (and very quiet person) who is a friend of Sharon’s. Yedidya has no Eurogaming experience. He watched us play Wallenstein for a few minutes and then I gave him the rules to Settlers of Catan and Evo to look at. By the time that Sharon came, I suggested that they start with Carcassonne: (Hunters and Gatherers), which they took out. Then they decided to play chess, which they took out. Then Rachel came up and decided that they would play Puerto Rico, which I suggested was a bad idea for first Eurogame, but they went ahead anyway.

I don’t know much about what went on, except that Rachel and Sharon did a lot of advice giving, and that Rachel once again went for University (priced 7, comes with a colonist).

Lo Ra

Yitzchak 52, Jon 33, Saarya 32, Roy 17

Roy saw all the new games on our shelves, including Amun Re, Evo and Taj Mahal, but we only had enough time left for a quick game, so we introduced him to Lo Ra (Nadine’s Temple-themed version of Ra). Roy had a quick, small lead at the end of the first round, but Yitzchak managed to collect a fistload of tribes (monuments), giving him a 28 point bonus, plus several other bonuses in the last round to pull way ahead. My 10 menorahs/oils (Niles/floods) weren’t near enough.

Next week:

  • Alan should be back with the new games. If you were planning to contribute, please bring some cash to pay back David Klein.
  • And bye bye Sharon, who is leaving for the summer; we’ll miss you!

Jun 16, 2004

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Yitzchak, Nadine, Alan, Ben, Sharon, Rachel A

TAJ MAHAL

Nadine 35, Alan 27, Jon 26, Yitzchak, Saarya

I was eager to play Taj Mahal again, so I set it up before everyone else came and dragged them in. It is one of those simple and pure games, a little abstract, and deliciously painful. We have to learn the strategies still – when to battle, when to build up. The most difficult part is that the winner of one round is usually in the worst position for the next round. And we also learned that the commodities are key, providing cascading points as the game progresses. Linking castles doesn’t seem to be much of a strategy; it’s usually too hard to link more than 1 or 2, and you are better off denying someone else the bonus for the same price.

Nadine got ahead in commodities, after saving up a large hand, and had enough to keep ahead the last two rounds. I got Orange a number of times (play an out of color card), but could never effectively use it. I also got into a large battle with Alan midway which drained my hand, from which I never really recovered.

When you are starting player, you should use the opportunity to withdraw first in order to get the bonus (if it is a commodity) and increase your cards.

LO RA

Saarya 31, Jon 22, Nadine 21, Sharon

Once again, Lo Ra is Ra, only rethemed with Jewish biblical elements (designed by Nadine). Otherwise, it is almost the same gameplay. This was the first game of it that I played that was not light and quick, with a lot of considering before each move that made the game plod a bit. The second era was really quick, though, ending before any of us had bid more than once. Saarya maintained a good lead with Baskets and Tribes, and thus kept ahead through the second and third round.

PUERTO RICO

Yitzchak 55, Rachel 45, Ben 44, Alan

Yitzchak had a coffee monopoly throughout the game, and got a coffee ship and Harbor to ice a victory. Ben had the Tobacco monopoly and an early Factory, but made some mistake at the very end (not buying the right building?) that cost him 12 points, or so he told me. Rachel had only corn, indigo and sugar, but a large market. She also bought University again (priced at 7 and comes with a colonist), but while a good building, it is still not worth getting over a large building, which is what she says she should have bought. Alan bought too many low cost purple buildings before producing anything.

SETTLERS OF CATAN

Nadine 10, Jon 7, Sharon

We finished Lo Ra before they finished Puerto Rico, so we finished up with a quick game of Settlers, which Sharon wanted to play again before giving a copy to her nieces and nephews. It is a very serene game, following raucus games like Taj Mahal and Puerto Rico; Nadine was bored actually. I had a quick nice lead, but Nadine was able to exploit good trade relations with Sharon and two initial settlements that were close together to get a quick Longest Road for 10 points. Sharon’s early development cards were both victory points, which were useless in actually helping her develop.

In other news:

  • Our game order should have gone out, or be going out momentarily. Thank you to everyone who committed to contributing.
  • Several people are going away here and there, Sharon and Alan. We’ll miss you, have good vacations and come back soon.
  • We are hoping to plan a large game day in Hol Hamoed sukkot. Suggestions for the date are welcome. Sunday, October 3, looks good. Sokay with everyone? Only problem with having a game day on sukkot is finding a large enough sukkah for eating.
  • Roy will be bringing Wallenstein next week. See you then.

Yehuda


Jun 09, 2004

Participants: Jon, David K, Saarya, Yitzchak, Ben, Nadine, Alan, Sharon

Well, one of the highlights of this evening was several games that we have never played before, including our first plays of Amun-Re and Taj Mahal, and our second plays of Ra. Except that we didn’t have Ra, so we played a beautifully crafted simulation of the game created and rethemed by Nadine. The new game uses Jewish temple elements for all the sets, such as 12 tribes, animals, menorahs and oil, etc… For the sake of simplicity, I’ll call the game “Lo Ra”, which in Hebrew means either “not ‘Ra'” or “not bad”. πŸ™‚

The other highlight, or lowlight, was my yelling at Ben (my brother, so it’s ok) when he complained for ther umpteenth time that I didn’t tell him the rules properly and this caused him to make a mistake, on our first playing of the game. The mistake didn’t change the ultimate scoring order. I believe that the first plays of games are reserved for learning the rules, not for winning. Winning the first few games is always luck anyway, because none of us knows what we’re doing. Still, I must be calm and not yell … I will put all my frustration in a bubble and *poof* blow it away. La la la …

Anyhoo …

Amun-Re

David K: 49, Ben: 36, Jon: 29, Saarya: 24

We were planning on buying Amun-Re, so it was great for Yaron to drop it off last week for us to give it a go (and turns out he says we can just buy his copy).

Amun-Re is unusual, in that, unlike other games, investing heavily in income sources doesn’t work as well as usual, since they are all destroyed after 3 rounds. Nevertheless, I got a huge windfall at the end of the third round. Farming was working out very productive, and we reached level 4 at the end of the third round. David K ended the fist half with 19, Ben at 18, me at 13 with the most money, and Saarya at 6.

I had two cards that gave me bonuses for having all my areas next to the Nile, so I tried for that in the second age, the first province without much trouble, but the second one I had to pay every single GP to get it, effectively killing me. The third round, only one area was available next to the river and I didn’t have enough to bid for it. Meanwhile, Saarya and David both had double sets of pyramids.

Interesting game, and enjoyable. Decisions like many of the other great games, such as Puerto Rico and Prince of Florence. Only … somehow, a little bit less than them, because you’re not handling very many resources (money and position, basically), and your game is driven by the luck of the cards you draw, to some extent.

David K loved the auction mechanism, I wasn’t so thrilled with it. I would certainly play it again.

Lo Ra

Yitzchak: 33, Nadine: 27, Alan: something less

This was Yitzchak’s and Alan’s first games, and I guess technically Nadine’s first game of Lo Ra, although she played Ra last time.

Puerto Rico

Nadine: 46 + 7 GP/goods, Yitzchak: 46 + 1 GP/good, Alan: 45

Very close game, as you can see.

Puerto Rico

Yitzchak: 47, David K: 44, Sharon: 43

Another close game. More info would be welcome.

Taj Mahal

Unfinished

Another in the Alea series, this one is an awesomely good game at first playing. Ra, which we played for the first time last week, gave us our fist taste of an amazing light game (as compared to Carcassonne, which is just a very good light game). Taj Mahal is even better, being a more meaty game that feels like a light game.

Each round is agonzing, yet fairly simple like Ra, but the whole game begins to develope as provinces become connected and stockades begin accumulating. Unfortunately, Nadine and Ben both became very tired by the time we got to area 8 out of 12, so the game ended unfinished.

What a shame this is out of print, because it would definitely be on my buy list!

See you next week.


Jun 02, 2004

Participants: Jon, Yaron, Ben, Yitzchak, Nadine, Saarya, Sharon, Rachel A

We welcomed back Yaron, who came from Haifa (he was in Tel Aviv, so he popped by), bringing lots of games with him which we always wanted to play. Yaron is part of an unofficial gaming group in the Tel Aviv area. If they ever get themselves a name, I won’t be able to call myself the only Eurogaming club in the Middle East.

Yaron brought Evo, Ra, Amun-Re, Taj Mahal, and a homemade copy of Modern Art.

MEDICI POKER

Incomplete

Ben, Yitzchak and Nadine came earlier, and I started them up while we were waiting for Yaron with a brainstorm of mine from the previous evening called Medici Poker. MP is a simulation of Medici using a 5 suited deck, 5 suits letters A through E and 16 cards in each suit. Each player gets eleven cards, 1-10 and 16, in one suit to use for bidding. The 11-15’s of all the suits are mixed together as the auction items.

The active player flips over 1, 2 or 3 cards (his choice, flipping over 1 at a time until he decides to stop) and the LHO starts the bidding which continues around until all players pass. The winning bidder uses any combination of his cards to pay for it and gets the cards. Each player can only win 5 cards total, and can’t bid on a set that would put him over. When all but one player has 5 cards, the last player takes cards off the top to fill up to five, and you score.

  • 3 of a kind (letters or cards)
  • 4 of a kind
  • 5 of a king
  • Full house
  • 4 card straight
  • 5 card straight
  • Highest value cards
  • Lowest value cards
  • Most value in your own suit over all previous rounds

Continue for three rounds. Highest score at the end wins. We only tried one round, and I think the points assigned were not correct based on the odds of getting each item. In any case Yaron showed up, so we ended in favor of including him.

PUERTO RICO with expansions

Rachel 52, Jon 38, Yaron 45

Yaron had never tried my expansions, and I wanted to encourage him to bring them back to his gaming group, so I pulled out a set for him to try. Yaron was shut out of early trading twice, but managed to build up again nicely. Rachel had a coffee monopoly and a small fashion district (sell indigo for +2) so did best on trades, and then she got harbor and racked up 20 shipping points in the last two rounds, easily more than either of us. Yaron had two big buildings, both of which gave him a total of 1 bonus point.

EVO

Saarya won by one point, followed by Nadine and Ben, and then Yitzchak

I didn’t get to play this, and I heard that it was ok but not great. For those that don’t know, you’re playing on an unchanging Settlers of Catan board, moving your dinosaur herds around to different areas as the climate changes, and trying to buy evolutionary advantages, such as more feet or horns.

RA

Yaron 57, Jon 48, Sharon 43

We finished PR+ before they finished Evo, and we still had time for a complete game of Ra, including explaining the rules to me and Sharon. Ra is an auction game where each person has 4 bidding tokens, and tiles keep being flipped up until someone calls “auction” at which point someone has to take the set (with occasional exceptions to this rule). Each person either bids or passes, and that’s it. There are numerous different types of tiles, each with their own unique rule about how they give or take away points and occasional bad tiles that destroy some of your tiles if you have any to destroy.

The range of what you can do actionwise is VERY small, which makes the game quick and light, but the numerous types of sets you can acquire is sufficiently complicated, making this a unique game of strategy, a little luck, yet quick. I rarely like lighter games (Carcassonne I like) but this is an excellent game.

Notes: I quickly dropped out of the Pharoh race, earning myself -2 each round. I was doing pretty well anyway, but I let Yaron get a complete set of monuments with many duplicates which let him shoot to a final victory. One thing Sharon and I kept forgetting about was that the winner of the auction also gets the previous winner’s bid tile for use next round (or for scoring in the last round).

RA

Sharon 35, Nadine 33, Jon 27

Sharon and I started up another game with Nadine, quickly explaining the rules. Nadine shared our opinion of the game. In this game, I went into the third round with 1 point while Nadine had about 20 and Sharon close behind. Again I ignored the Pharohs, but this time I got the monuments.

On the very last move of the game, with only myself able to bid, there were two more monuments out there and the 12 bidding token. I could have just taken them, but I decided to be greedy and flip one more tile, which unfortunately ended the game. If I had acuired them, I would have had 10 more points, and Sharon 5 less, which would have given me the game. Argh!

PUERTO RICO

Ben 58, Yaron 53, Yitzchak 48

Meanwhile, since Yaron’s game group doesn’t play PR that often, he decided to get in another game. Ben as usual whined the whole game that he was behind, and then went on to win with three large buildings. I can’t remember when he has lost a PR game, and he never plays “correctly”, either. One day I am going to have to give him a huge beatdown.

Unfortunately, Yaron had to take Ra back with him, but he left the other games, which is great, so we can try them out before we make our game upcoming purchase. See you next week and with new games to play!


May 27, 2004

Participants: Jon, Alan Frazin, Nadine, Rachel A (Jon’s wife), Yacov, Sharon

BLOKUS

Alan came because it was a special Thursday game, but says he can come on future Wed’s for the next few weeks. He showed up a bit early, so we played Blokus 2 player, his first time. He caught on quickly, but I was able to leave myself some late wiggle room, ending with only 3 pieces total from both colors, while he had 3 or 4 pieces each. Yay me.

PUERTO RICO

Nadine set up while we were playing Blokus, and then Rachel joined us for a 4 person game of PR, the way God intended it. Nadine was first position, followed by Alan, Rachel and myself.

I gained 4 corn plantations and a coffee plantation in the first few rounds, leading me to get coffee and wharf and harbor (right before getting indigo going). Having a coffee monopoly also helped. Rachel was before me, with tobacco, sugar and small warehouse, which, while nice, is still not nearly as nice as wharf. She also bought University (cost: 7, comes with a colonist), which she used to good effect, planning her plantations and then buying the manned production, or buying Sm Warehouse when she was already stocked with goods. University works well with these modifications, and is worth buying in some positions.

Alan had serious cash problems for most of the game, despite three quarries. Nadine had sugar, large market, guild hall, harbor and small warehouse. I ended up tying my record of 45 shipping points and custom’s house, winning with 72 VPs to Nadine’s second place of 49. Yay me.

DAVID AND GOLIATH

Yacov showed up, and Sharon was on her way, so we played a filler of D&G. Yacov has a history of success with this game, and continued his success, beating Alan by some 52 to 47 (give or take a point or two). Nadine and I were far behind. Yay Yacov.

EL GRANDE

Having played enough PoF and PR over the past few weeks, and not enough EG, we decided to give it a go. I thought we might like to play a shorter version, 6 rounds, scoring after rounds 3, 5 and 6, but the rest of the group was up for the full game. It was Alan’s first game, but as a seasoned Diplomacy and war gamer, he had little trouble picking it up.

Nadine is the one with the history of winning this game, and she did come close; Sharon was also close, with two high scoring regions. Nevertheless, I was a few points ahead after the first scoring round, having gotten 10 points on the first round by scoring all the 4 mark regions. The board started to fill up, with me in control of basically the 4 regions, which I again scored in round 6 for 14 more points, which put me about 10 points ahead.

The game’s flavour was “empty courts”, as at least 3 of the cards sent all the caballeros from the courts back to the provinces. Another interesting feature is that the king card was not picked first (or even second or third) in the scoring rounds, which is very strange. Despite some late attempts to gang up on my positions toward the end, I went last in the last round, moving around pieces to hurt second and third place, and ended the game with a score of 100 to Nadine in second place at 97, and the others close behind.

Yay me.

Next week Wed evening. See you there!


May 19, 2004

Participants: Jon, David K, Saarya, Nadine, Yitzchak, Ben, Genya, Dylan, Sharon

As Sharon put it: a hopping game night.

Magic: the Gathering

David K: 4, Jon: 1

David K came early to play some hands of Magic, and, as usual, walked over me, although the games were closer than they usually are. I even won a game. We play Rochester Draft. The first set of decks had very few large creatures. I played a BUW weenie deck with 22 creatures (5 clerics), but it wasn’t enough, as he almost as many creatures and bigger ones. The second game with those decks, if I actually could have gotten my Island Sanctuary out on time, I actually would have won by decking him! But I was mana screwed and mana shy.

The second game I actually won one. We had slower decks, but I had some game shorteners, like Hurricane and Barbed Wire. My first try was close, I played BW with splash R – more mana problems. My second try was better, since my R really wasn’t so good, I splashed U for two flying enchantments, and some fatty flew over and hit him. The third one I don’t remember, except I lost soundly. Oh well.

Purto Rico + expansions

David K: 62, Jon: 54

We played with several buildings from the expansions. I tried ”Assembly Line” (each production building can hold an additional colonist) which my wife has used to beat me a few times, but I couldn’t get it going. I had a good start, producing Indigo, Sugar and Coffee fairly early. I still don’t know where I went wrong. I ended up shipping 10 more points then him, but he ended up with 3 large buildings to my 1, and a few better buildings besides.

Railroads of Catan

David K, Jon, Saarya (Nadine), Yitzchak – unfinished

RR of Catan, my rail game for playing on a Settlers board, is a 4 player game exactly, so Nadine and Saarya doubled up until others arrived, after which she left to play PR with them. I went over the rules again (now in their third iteration), and as often happens, we made a few on the spot adjustments and noted some changes that needed to be made. Nevertheless, the game is now much smoother and much better.

The new rules make the money situation much tighter; David K missed out on this and overbought, leaving him in such a difficult position that he didn’t feel he could get out of it (which led to him resigning the game, and us stopping when Sharon came, on the third turn). The same thing can happen in Acquire, so I’m not sure it is a huge design flaw, but it will need more playtesting. It is crucial to be able to get one of your delivery orders complete in the first or second turn.

There was a lot of calculations going on, which introduced some downtime. It is partly due to the fee structure, and perhaps simplifying it would speed up the game (or, it could be just the nature of train games to be like that). Also, Yitzchak complained that the whole game comes down to getting good delivery orders. It seemed that way a bit, but as the third turn rolled on, I was more certain that this was not true, as there were many key strategic and tactical decisions that needed making, regardless of the DO’s. I think that unless the DO’s REALLY suck, everyone should be able to compete. I could fix this a bit, by eliminating the worst paying of the DO’s, and/or by adding some other factor, such as choosing among two or three, or offering all DO’s for auction, instead of drawing them randomly.

All in all, it went well. Yitzchak and I were both getting some good DO’s in, and we were pretty neck and neck, while David and Saarya hadn’t gotten any in yet, but were poised to do so by next round. It took about 2.5 hours for the explanations and the first three rounds. Still a bit too long; but we are a slow group.

Puerto Rico

Ben: 62, Nadine: 56, Genya: 54, Dylan: “less”

Nadine explained the rules to Dylan, a guest of Genya’s (a guest of Ben’s). I wasn’t watching, but somehow Ben ended up with Factory, Harbor AND Wharf, and Nadine with Harbor and Wharf, so the two of them getting first and second place is not much of a surprise; if anything it is how close third place is.

Princes of Florence

Jon: 62, Yitzchak: 52, David K: 43, Saarya: 42, Sharon: “less”

David K coaxed us into a PoF game. It is best with 5, so it didn’t take much coaxing. We play with randomly discarding one Profession card before starting, which eliminates the huge advantage to 2nd player (and adds some mystery to the game).

The profession cards were gone in first round, of course, which boosted the value of the Recruiters, which were going for up to 1000, with the Jesters between 1100 and 1200 each until the last round. Even the landscapes were being bid up. A tight and vicious auctioning kept the game scores low. I wasn’t able to get more than one Jester, and no Recruiters, but I got an early Builder and 3 Prestige cards which I sweated to make work. Yitzchak and David K both ended the last round with two works, each with one at 29 WV, but Yitzchak’s were just slightly better, and he had gotten just a few more points along the way, so he took second.

Blokus

Dylan (winner), Ben, Genya, Nadine – I don’t know anything about this except that Dylan won.

A good game night. See you next week.


May 12, 2004

Participants: Jon, Yitzchak, Roy, Saarya, Sharon

Samurai Swords

Yitzchak returned from an extended vacation. Since it was he, Roy, myself and Saarya, we decided to play Samurai Swords (formerly known as Shogun, from Milton Bradley’s Gamemaster series, who brought you Axis and Allies). Swords is not a good game for our group, generally, for two reasons: 1) It is a direct conflict game, which we tend to avoid, and 2) its primary mechanism of determining success is a dicefest, like Risk, etc…

Nevertheless, Yitzchak and Roy are both into these sorts of games, and Saarya, after his first play, also seems to like them. We tried to mitigate the second problem by reducing some dice rolls to their average outcomes (2 armies that kill on a 1 in 2 chance will always register 1 kill, no rolling). On the one hand, this did turn it more into a leaner, more strategic game. On the other hand, it was a little less thrilling, as the outcomes were more deterministic. an’t have it both ways, I guess.

We only got to play 1 round, which took about 2 hours, including the rules explanation. I’m happy it was over, since, due to my unfamiliarity with the consequences of certain actions, I left myself with all my soldiers in my armies, and therefore limited amount of attacking power in the next turn. Both Roy and Yitzchak were dong well, controlling two central areas of the board, and Saarya was little more spread out. I had one side of the board, but wasn’t doing as well due to the aforesaid misplay of my armies. If I had the final phase of the first round to do over, I would have been in better shape.

Blokus

Anyway, Sharon saved me by coming in. Roy wanted a quick game before he left, so I introduced them to Blokus, for which Saarya sat out. They very much enjoyed it, it seems. My first piece in the middle was soundly surrounded, leaving me struggling to snake out the sides. It ended up with Sharon and me fighting on one side, and Yitzchak and Roy on the other. Yitzchak managed to get more penetration, so he ended up with only 9 blocks left, the rest of us around 15 or so. Good job.

Puerto Rico

Roy left, leaving us 4 players. Once again, I wanted to play Railroads, but it was deemed to long, and both Yitzchak and Sharon are still relative newbies to Puerto Rico, so out it came. Yitzchak started with an early corn/coffee combo, and managed to pull 3 quarries later. I had the first Tobacco, and then got an Office to ensure I could trade it, when Saarya picked up Tobacco. Saarya had early sugar. Unfortunately for me, Sharon did an early craft when it was the last phase of the round, 1 empty spot in the Trading house, and 1 GP on the trader, and going into Yitzchak governor with a coffee to trade. Net result: 8 GP for Yitzchak, nothing for the rest of us.

Eventually, Yizchak and I both had Harbor and Wharf, but he had better building because of his 3 quarries. Saarya had Factory going for up to 5 GP (I would have gotten Factory, but we had changed it to cost 8, which made it just out of reach for me at the critical time). Sharon got the second big building, but Yitz ended with 62 points, Saarya 55, me 51, Sharon 48.

See you next week.


May 05, 2004

Participants – Jon, Nadine, Yacov, Roy, Sharon

Puerto Rico

With only three of us for the first session, I thought a nice quiet game of Puerto Rico might hit the spot. After a little discussion, we played no expansions, but with my minor changes, the most significant one being that Factory and University switch places. As player 2, I was set to get Factory at 7 GP on round 3, but since it cost 8, I took Coffee instead.

I ended up getting Factory later, anyway. Nadine as first player had a strong Tobacco monopoly, while I was in front of Yacov with Coffee. He ended up with a first Harbor, and most shipping points at the end of the game. I made one very important bad move at the end of the game, building when I could have crafted and guaranteed ship, holding Harbor and Wharf, and thereby losing a 9 point advantage.

In the meantime, Nadine had 3 large buildings, including a maxed out Guild Hall, and took the game 53, Yacov 48, me 46. And I thought I was good at this game!

Princes of Florence

We tried to get in a quick game of Settlers, but Roy showed up, followed by Sharon, which was 1 too many for Railroads, too, so we introduced Sharon (and reintroduced Roy) to PoF, seeing as both of them find El Grande dry. Funny, because Nadine and I find PoF dry.

I don’t know; it is tough, and brain burning, but for all that, it just comes down to kicking yourself for not seeing all the factors, and a lot of math. Anyway, Jesters were in high demand, Recruiters should have been (we tossed out one Professional Card at random, so that each player could only buy 1, instead of giving the 2nd player an advantage), but I got 2 Jesters and Recruiters, which, with a lot of conservation and a first round builder gave me a pretty easy victory, melding 41 points in the final two rounds for a final score of 64. Nadine was closest, with 53 (or something like that), 13 of them from Prestige cards. Sharon came in last, but her last play was a 32 point work, using 3 bonus cards (actually, we may have forgotten to give her her final 3 point bonus).

Fluxx

Nadine brought over Fluxx, much to my fear, having heard of its reputation on the Geek. It was kind of cute, like Munchkin. A very silly game, with little strategy and lots of luck, but lots of mental whirling to try and remember all of the rules in play. I can’t see playing it often, but not as bad as I had heard.

For those who don’t know, Fluxx is a card game consisting of cards that, when laid on the table, define the rules of the game, such as how many cards you must draw or play each round, and what the win conditions are. Since everything changes every round, there is little you can hope to do in the planning department, except know all the cards played and guess what will come up next, if you are lucky enough to have what matches it.

Anyway, hope to get to Railroads next time. See you then.


Apr 28, 2004

Participants: Jon, David K, Avraham K, Nadine, Rachel (Jon’s wife), Sharon, Yacov

Magic: the Gathering

David K came early, as usual, and took time out to roll over me in a few hands of Magic. The first few draft was at least somewhat close, him beating me with Blanket of Night (turns all lands into swamps) and swampwalkers. The second one, my draw was so awful, I simply tossed the cards in halfway through the first game. In this one, he has Pestilence, several protection from black creatures and COP: Black. All of my cards were double colored mana.

Puerto Rico

We then played a 2 player game of PR (with only my tweaks), and I took the opportunity of playing two player to change my strategies, yet again. Let’s see. David ended up with a Factory, Coffee, and Harbor, which was enough 54 points. I had Sugar, Indigo and Corn, and an early Large Market, which was ok, but not enough; I got to 49 points.

Puerto Rico w/expansions

Next we player 2 player PR with expansions:

  • Aqueduct
  • Convenience Store 2 1 Sell twice to trading house (no additional bonuses, all trades legal)
  • Civil Office 2 1 Pick a phase when you buy it, get double privilige when taking that phase
  • Trade Annex 3 1 Sell into full traing house (trades must still be legal)
  • Commons 4 2 If Settler Phase taken, get additional colonist on San Juan, and move all colonists at end of round
  • Inheritence 5 2 Get manned plantation when buying Production building
  • Office
  • Discretionary Hold 6 2 Ship into the Hold of any full ship at the end of the Captain phase, AND store up to 3 barrels of any type
  • Specialty Factory 7 3 Get GP = one type good you produce (boosted from official expansion)
  • Goldmine 8 3 Gets gold, with 2 colonists and 2 goldmine plantations, gold sells for 6, ships for 3 VP into the Hold (which blocks Discretionary Hold from doing so) [See my Expansion sets for more info]
  • Moneychangers 8 3 Get VP whenever you get money from a building, or a trade facilitated by a building
  • Private Boat 9 3 A wharf to ship any four barrels
  • Beureucracy 10 7 At the end of a turn, build or trade if you haven’t done so this turn [In the second game, we used Residence]
  • Historical Society 10 4 4/5/6/7 VP for 1-8/9/10/11-12 buildings
  • Emergency Measures 10 7 Gets 4 counters, loses one per round, and game ends when all counters gone
  • Travel Agency 10 5 +1 VP/type of square on plantation area
  • Fairgounds 10 4 +1 VP/empty circle on your board (city and plantations)

We played 2 player. Then, we used the same buildings for 4 player, with Rachel and Avraham K, when they arrived.

In the 2 player game, I started off very strong, using Civil Office (Builder) and building very strong. Somewhere around turn 8 I stalled, trying to get a Goldmine going. David managed to get a good Discretionary Hold running, and managed to beat me by some huge margin. Notes: Civil Office is greater when there are less players, of course, just like Library. Aqueduct and Specialty Factory are practically broken (less so in multiplayer), and almost made me unchange SF back to N-1 goods, but not quite. Goldsmiths must be bought early to be of any use. Private Boat is good, probably better than Wharf. All those trading houses look tempting, especially in 2 player.

In the multiplayer game, I got my Goldsmiths early, and it was much more beneficial, giving me several trades and some good shipping too, on my Private Boat. This time I took Civil Office (Craftsman), while David K took Civil Office (Prospector) (which might have been more powerful in 5 player). All around, we were pretty balanced, except for Rachel’s board, because she didn’t fully understand my explanations of the buildings (happens when I introduce new buildings). I ended up winning 58 – 56 – 55. Notes: Trade Annex is good in 5 player, Convenience Store not so, and the reverse in 3 player. 4 player ??? we couldn’t figure out which was good. Civil Office is much tougher in 4 player, and as a twist causes your opponents to want to pick “your phase” to prevent you from getting it. As David found out to his chagrin, don’t be holding a Discretionary Hold if your RHO has one (although, he still used it to save goods and ship them the next round).

The set was a good set, balanced for shipping and building. I had to tweak Inheritence (still wasn’t bought), and neither was Emergency Measures or Moneychangers (not much use for it in this set of buildings)

Settlers of Catan

While we were playing this, Nadine, Sharon and Yacov held a Settlers of Catan game, wherein Yacov and Nadine raced to 9 points, and while Sharon had 5, they still kept hitting her with the robber, or so Sharon reports. Yacov edged out a victory.

El Grande

Last of all, despite my wanting to play Railroads of Catan, we had 5 players left (me, David, Avraham, Nadine, Sharon), not enough for 2 games, and too many for RoC. So we introduced Avraham to El Grande, trying for a 6 round game. Unfortunately, it was already late by the end of the 4th round, with David about 2-3 points ahead, and all of us close behind. I was all setup, guaranteed to play my 1 / 13 power cards in the next two rounds, so I was hopeful, but it was anyone’s game.

Still, an enjoyable evening, and hope to see you all soon. We are going to make a game order soon, and many members of the group have volunteered to buy a game just to loan it to the goup, which is super. Thanks!


Apr 21, 2004

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Nadine, Yacov, Sharon

Princes of Florence

Eager to try PoF again, I brought it out for the first game. I have the feeling that I will continue to want to play PoF until it is “solved”. After all, there are only 21 actions for each player duing the game, plus 1 decision per work played. It can’t hold out forever. Also, the game seems to revolve around what you miscalculated, and by the end, I always feel like an idiot.

This was Yacov’s first time. Despite a good opening two Jesters in the first few rounds, I wasn’t able to pull in enough profession cards . 2nd and 3d seat, Yacov and Saarya, bought two, Nadine and I bought 1, and we were playing without the University. I think that this is a mistake. With university, everyone would have been able to buy 2, and to prevent Saarya from purchasing 3, we can simply limit each player to 2. I think there should be the same number available for each player, if possible.

Nadine ended up with 3 recruting cards, 1 more than she needed, as she had no Jesters and cuoldn’t play her last work. Saarya timed everything very well, and played 5 18-point works in the last three rounds for 45 points, ending up the winner.

Acquire

Sharon showed up just in time, and after some discussion, and lamenting that I was selling Bang! along with Settlers of Catan card game and Bohnanza, we ended up playing Acquire. Again, this ws Yacov’s first time. 5 player Acquire was very nice last time. This time I had my head handed to me on a platter, as Saarya ended up with all of the merging tiles, and before it could come around to me, Sharon kept starting all the new companies again (4 times, at least). Sharon won, $45k to second place of $33k .

Acquire felt more “lucky” this time. The unknown elements are who gets the critical tiles (the concept of critical tiles this time was very pronounced), and how much each player bought. I would be happy to see an expansion to the game, where players earn bonus points for controlling certain hotel chains, have special priviliges (not as radical as the AH suggested ones, perhaps), can trade in stocks, have other ways to earn money, etc….

Next week.


Apr 15, 2004

Participants: Jon, Alan, Ben, Rachel (Ben’s friend), Yacov, Saarya, Rachel (Jon’s wife), Nadine

This evening was punctuated with a few frustratingly long and distracting phone calls. Ugh.

Settlers of Catan

Anyway, we had an unusual Thursday night game which allowed Alan to participate. We started him off easy with a game of Settlers. There were five of us, but I had to have one of those phone calls, so Alan, Saarya, Rachel (BF) and Ben began, until Saarya had to leave for karate. When I joined them, Ben was in the lead, although limited in expansion space. I quickly made a number of good trades, catching up, until it was anyone’s game. Once I got 8 points however, I was in a position to buy myself into largest army without much trouble, although Ben was one soldier behind me.

David & Goliath

We fooled around a little, and I played some David and Goliath with Ben, Yacov and Alan, while we waited for Nadine to show up and Saarya to get back. (We also ended the evening with a hand of D&G) Yacov won all these games.

Cosmic Encounter

We then started parallel games, myself, Saarya, Yacov and Ben on Cosmic, and Rachel (BF), Rachel (JW), Nadine and Alan on Puerto Rico.

Yacov was not happy when we moved the game along a bit by having Saarya ally on offense during the first round while he was showering (even though that is what he said he would have done), and that he ended up with Antimatter, which he didn’t think was as strong as our powers – Oracle, Fungus, and Industrialist. We actually had second powers as well, Chosen, Trader, Delegator and Chronos respectively. Once again the reverse cone robbed me of a game, where Ben and I would have gone for a joint win, instead Ben and Saarya did a joint compromise (with a little verbal prompting as to his best strategy) for 5 bases each.

Puerto Rico

Meanwhile, the PR game was a bit slow (as usual), but, to no one’s surprise, Nadine achieved a huge victory with something like 67 points, more than 10 points past here nearest competitor.

Side note: during the week, we tried a Cities and Knights game, and boy have we outgrown it. When the dice go your way, you’re winning, when they are going his way, oh look, he’s winning. There is a certain loss of innocence to discovering this about a game you had loved for so long, and a certain amount of trepidation, as well; what about all the new games people love now that are only a few years old? Will they suffer the same fate?

See you next Wednesday.


Apr 07, 2004

Game Day

Participants: Jon, Ben, Saarya, David B, David K, Pini, Sharon, Nadine, Yael, Tal

First day of Chol Hamoed Pesach, a good day for games. The JSGC held an all day gaming event. The first part of the day we decided to go to my brother, who is rarely able to get to us. Ben, Saarya and I headed out to him in a cab, while David K was to meet us there. The intention was to hold a Magic: the Gathering tournament. I had prepared 8 sealed decks before hand (random from my batch of cards) for Ben, David B, David K and myself to play, while Saarya, who doesn’t know Magic too well, would play a game with Pini.

Princes of Florence

Unfortunately, when we got there, David B forgot that we had set our clocks forward the night before, so we were kicked out to wait in the stairwell for another hour. David K, Ben, Saarya and I played a game of Princes of Florence on the staircase (ouch). It was Ben’s first game, but an easy game to pick up on.

Side note: Princes of Florence took me a long time to get into, primarily because I was playing it 3 and 4 player, and none of us bid very much. It took two changes to make the game into a real winner. 1) Players have to get used to what is important enough to bid up, namely Jesters and Recruiting cards (see change 2). 2) The resources have to be restricted in a 3 or 4 player game. I can’t say that strongly enough. The changes you need to make are:

  • 4 player: remove University and cards associated with it. 3 buildings and 3 freedoms of each type. You may even want to lessen the availablity of certain buildings.
  • 3 player: remove University, Theater and Chapel and cards associated with them. 2 buildings and 2 freedoms of each type. 5 jesters.

You may also want to remove certain Bonus and Prestige cards associated with Large and Small buildings. Saarya adds: it is a problem that 2nd and 3rd players end up with more Profession cards, and one should either make it such that the number of cards equals a multiple of the number of players, or that player’s initial seating is determined by auction (PP’s or money).

Continue: Competition now became fierce for both Jesters and Recruiting cards, as the profession cards were gone by turn 2. Ben played a successful building strategy, but, in my opinion, didn’t start building early enough (first game, after all), and David K swooped to a massive triumph with about 40 points worth of works in the last two rounds to add to 15 points worth of Prestige cards. I was off by a WV point here and there, so I couldn’t quite match it. By the time we finished, David B was ready to receive us.

Magic: the Gathering tournament

We were very late, however, and both David B and Ben are very slow deck builders. David K and I played out 3 games by the time they were in the middle of their first. My deck was Red and Black big guys, with creature control (no direct damage, however) and Blue flying cards. David K’s was probably slightly weaker than mine (Blue Black), but I still usually lose to him, and I did this time – 2 out of 3, although the last game was close.

David B was playing Red White, and Ben was playing Blue Green, and it appears that Ben managed to eke out a victory, despite some early mana screws. David K then played Ben while I played David B. I summarily handed David B his head, and he complained that his deck was just no match. Since I am a quicker builder, I gave him my deck to play with, and I quickly opened another set and built a deck, which lost to my previous one, as my creatures were poorer and I had less control cards (Black Blue with massive amount of flyers).

El Grande

In the meantime, Saarya taught Pini 2 player El Grande. Saarya (my 12 year old son) is sort of a master at 2 player El Grande, using his power cards to operate his two teams in successive strokes perfectly, and he is less merciful than I am when I teach new players, so I believe it was something of a slaughter against Pini (David B’s 15? year old son). David B has put in an order for Tigris and Euphrates and El Grande, so Pini is now prepared for at least one of them.

In any case, we were behind schedule, and had to return to my house for the second game, where Nadine and Sharon were waiting for us.

Puerto Rico + expansions

We were going to have a Die Macher game at this point, and Puerto Rico + expansions later in the evening, but Ben said he could only stay for a while, and we had 6 people, and then 7 when Yael (Ben’s wife) agree to try Settlers of Catan (first time). So Yael, Sharon and Ben tried a Settlers game. Unfortunately, Yael’s children returned at this point, so she only got about halfway through, and Tal (my daughter) tried to take over, but then Ben also had to attend to his kids, so I believe the game remained unfinished.

During this time we played our game of Puerto Rico + expansions. Here were the available violet buildings:

  • 1/1 Small Market
  • 2/1 Investment Club – This was the broken building in the set. As written, it gave 1 GP per round, and 1 GP extra for each 5 GP on it each round, until you used any of the GP, at which point it was removed from the game. The problem was with the extra GP per 5 GP on it, which quickly grows to 60 GP by the end of 15 rounds. Combined with one of the big buildings which lets you swap excess GP’s for VP’s, it would have been a disaster. The building is now changed to give 1 GP/round, period. Still a very nice building, arguably better than Small Market, but not a killer. [Why is it sometimes so hard to see broken buildings until the first second one starts playing with them? Corollary: some buildings seem broken until one starts playing with them, when you realize they aren’t.]
  • 2/1 Covenience Store – trade a second time (without bonuses). A nice building in 3 player, with limited usage in 4 or 5 player.
  • 3/1 Small Distillery – +2 GP when trading sugar. Not as nice as the 2 cost equivalent for indigo, but still useful at certain times.
  • 4/2 Tobacco Commision – +1 GP/tobacco produced -1 . A specialty factory for tobacco, also of limited usage, but worked well for David K who had all 5 goods an this, and was getting 7 GP for crafting.
  • 5/2 Large Market
  • 5/2 Exchange House – trade goods with Trading House at the end of Trader. useful for retrading expensive goods, or for getting an extra barrel to ship.
  • 6/2 Discretionary Hold – Place barrels into “The Hold” of any full ship, and store up to 3 barrels. The ONLY shipping related building this game. “The Hold” on each ship can contain one item, and several of my buildings relate to it.
  • 7/3 University – cheaper, and comes with a colonist on it.
  • 8/3 Governor’s Mansion (2 circles) – 1 GP/colonist whenever anyone else takes Governor. Feels like cheating, but not acually unbalanced.
  • 8/3 Factory – made more expensive
  • 9/3 Construction Crew – Buy a second building (all bonuses apply).
  • 10/4 Reserves – +2 VP/type of good on your board
  • 10/4 Good Works – Swap excess VP’s for GP’s or vice versa (e.g. if you have more GP’s than VP’s, you can swap the excess GP’s for VP’s, or vice versa). This is abused with the original version of Investment Club. It was bought by Saarya to prevent one of the Investment Club owners from using it.
  • 10/5 Travel Agency – +1 VP/plantation type in your plantation area (including quarries, etc…)
  • 10/4 Cathedral – +2 VP/column that you have at least 2 buildings from
  • 10/6 Transport System – You may move colonists at the beginning of each phase.

All in all, the buildings were excessively building oriented. Tons of money makers, and a few abusive buildings (now corrected). Because of this, or despite this, I decided, after Investment Club, to concentrate on shipping, since I figured I wouldn’t have much competition, and I was right, having the best shipping production, and forcing craft and captain whenever I could. I was behind in money (again, not including the investment club, which I cashed in at 14 GP), but the big buildings were gone by the middle of the game. Still, David K managed to pull ahead and win by a few points. Nadine was close behind.

Die Macher

By this time, it was time to try Die Macher again. This, our second attempt (for me, Saarya, David K, and Nadine, and first attempt for Sharon), went smoother than our first attempt. Still, we forgot the opinion polls the first round, and forgot that we should do them for all the areas during the second round. Others made mistakes based on not knowing the rules properly, as opposed to just tactical mistakes or forgetting a bestter move. The first round took about 2 hours, the second 1 hour. I would have liked to continue; I think the first rounds are very different from subsequent rounds, since people who have blown their resources during the first few rounds are bound to lose some of the later ones, but we chose to stop and try again at a later date, knowing better how to play properly. We all still felt it was a great game.

Blokus

This left us a little time left, so I taught David K how to play Blokus, as Tal (my 11 year old) and Saarya took up the other colors. Tal won, Saarya in second. Still enjoyable, and looks like it will continue to be so.

Puerto Rico

In the meantime, my wife Rachel who had not played all day, snuck in a Puerto Rico game with Sharon and Nadine, which Nadine took (I don’t have any other details).

All in all, a little frustration, but lots of fun. Next week’s game is moved to Thursday for a little variation. I hope to see you all then!


Mar 31, 2004

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Sharon, Hadar, Yacov

Sharon came early for the first session this week, and brought along a new player Hadar, whose gaming experience is in Poker. (Let me just note how incongruous it is to see a tightly head covered young religious woman whose gaming experience in Poker, and who shuffles her feet to Eiffel 52.)

El Grande

Although I usually start new player on Settlers, there were five of us, so I opted for El Grande, which is simple enough to learn, but a full five player game can be really long, and this one was 3.5 hours. I think that five player games from now on have to be 6 turns only.

In any case, Hadar made a strong first showing, pulling out in front after the first scoring round by a surprise castille holding, and basically taking over the entire south of Spain. Nevertheless, we were all pretty close the whole game, and Nadine won at the end by a few points, which is not much of a surprise, seeing as she has won the last, oh, 546 games of El Grande we played.

Blokus

Yacov as usual then decided to sit it out, and being too late for a Settlers game, I brought in Blokus. My copy actually belongs to the shul (bought for “game night”), but I borrowed it (heh heh – no really).

Blokus is a simple abstract tile laying game. The board and pieces are very pretty and it is a joy to watch the game develop. You start with 21 pieces; each piece has between 1 and 5 squares, and you have 1 piece of each unique shape. Starting from a corner of a 20×20 board, each piece may only be placed touching the corner of one of your other pieces – it must touch your piece, and it may not touch along any side – corners only.

The basic idea is that you need to worm your way through to as much open space as possible, and your opponenets are trying to block your liberties, which can be non-intuitive, as your liberties are corners of your pieces, not sides. It is quite fun, actually. There is something exciting about placing a little piece in the middle of a buch of other pieces to use a a bridge through their territory, and someting painful to watch what looked like an open side of the board die from a carefully placed opponents piece.

In our first game, Nadine won handily. After that, we all played a little more carefully, but I pulled out a victory with only 9 “blocks” remaining. Hadar had to go, and Yacov was so intrigued by the game, that we played one more game for him to try it out, which he won.

Next week, first day of Chol Hamoed is game day. Further discussion on the mailing list. See you then, and have a Chag Kasher V’sameyach!


Mar 24, 2004

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Yitzchak, Roy, Yacov, Sharon

Yitzchak asked well before the game if it is ok to bring over Shogun (now: Samurai Swords), and we all said ok, if he is willing to endure complaints and criticism. So he went through the trouble of lugging it over and we didn’t even get to it. Sorry.

Munchkin

What happened is that while we were waiting for Yitzchak, Roy showed up with Munchkins, a strange card and humorous card game that plays similarly to 3e DnD πŸ™‚ . You deal everybody cards, each player starts default at 1st level, human and classless. Each turn he flips over a card which is either a monster he has to fight, a curse that affects him, or a class or race he can become.

Monsters have a level; you defeat a monster by being higher than his level by adding your own level plus any magic plusses you have from treasure items. If you defeat the monster, you gain a level and the number of treasure items listed. If you don’t, you can try to run away. If the monster catches you, he does the Bad Thing that it says on the card. Each monster has some other special difficulty (e.g. +4 against Wizards) and a cute picture and name.

The whole things is rather ridiculous, and completely unstrategic (which is why I compared it to 3e), but fun. Unfortunately by the time we finished it (I won by a flip of Divine Intervention), it was just a little late to start Shogun; the time remining would have been eaten up just with the rules explanations, we feared.

Acquire

However, I judged there to be enough time to play a game of Acquire. It was actually one of the most enjoyable games of Acquire I have played. Sharon took over Yacov’s role as 5th player, and 5 was just about right to cause severe pain in the decision making without being extravegantly chaotic. Possibly 4 would work best, but 5 was better than 3, I think, and much better than 6. Also, we all played fairly quickly, and picked up the rules very quickly. The strategy is still beyond me (Yitzchak won, having formed several intial companuies), if indeed there is a real strategy that can be played effecively.

Yitzchak now goes away for a month, but he left Shogun with us, if any are interested in trying it. It is supposed to be best with 4 or 5, and not too good with 2 or 3.


Mar 17, 2004

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Nadine, Yacov, Yitzchak, David K, Sharon

Magic: the Gathering

David K, Jon

As often happens when David K come for game night (every three weeks), he comes early so we can get in a few games of something before the actual game night starts. We usually play Magic, and as often happens he whomps me, despite some strange shared belief that I know what I’m doing. I have always thought David K the best player in our group, and I think he has always thought the same about me, which makes for a nice friendship.

Puerto Rico

David K, Yacov, Nadine, Yitzchak

There were six of us, and it probably would have been better to split into 3/3, but I wanted to give Settlers of Catan card game one more go, so while Saarya and I tried that, the above 4 played a long liesurly game of PR. I don’t know exactly what happened, but from where I was sitting, every single turn sounded like this:

OK, my turn. What should I do?

Settler looks good.

Yes, Settler. Craftsman also looks good.

No, he shouldn't take Craftsman, because he has Factory and she has
tobacco, and he won't be able to trade. Captain looks good. Or Settler.

But if he doesn't take Craftsman, then he will, and then she'll trade
anyway, and with a gold piece. He should take Mayor. Mayor looks good.

Mayor is sweet. But he should take Captain, so that he won't be able to
ship when she takes Craftsman.

She won't take Craftsman, she will take Trader.

Oh yeah. You should take Settler. Unless he takes Captain.

Prospector looks good. Also Settler.

Yes, definitely Prospector, Craftsman or Settler. Or Mayor. Mayor looks
sweet.

Or Captain. Don't take Prospector.

What about Builder?

Oh yeah, Builder looks sweet. Or Captain.

[several minutes later]

OK, I think I'll take Settler.

Wait, what about [insert role here]? You will be helping her far more
than you'll be helping yourself. Blah blah blah ....

[several minutes of argments later]

Well, I see your reasoning, but I still want to take Settler, and we'll
see what happens. You're probably right.

OK, on your own head be it.

[Settler phase]

OK, whose turn is it?

My turn. [pause] What should I do?

While I favor giving advice to newcomers until they understand the implications of the role selection, I think we are going to have to play at least some games with no advice allowed, just for a change of pace.

Settlers Of Catan Card Game

Jon, Saarya

This was a rather quicker affair. The game does seem to work marginally better now that I have the rules right, but in a few turns I was already beating Saarya 6 to 3, and it seemed unlikely he was going to catch up. But the main problem is that, like Citadels, it just doesn’t click. Not as engaging as real Settlers, with the trading. Not as interesting as Cities and Knights two players with the competition for board space.

Railroads of catan

Sharon, David K, Jon, Yiztchak

I bullied them into trying my Railroads of Catan game, a makeshift simulation of a crayon railroad game with my own rules significantly changed from the originals, and on a Settlers of Catan board. I ironed out a few kinks since the last attempt, but there is still a ways to go. Despite this, it is still very enjoyable, and I will work on fixing it. Again we stopped before completion, with Sharon ahead $10,000 over David at $90,000, and me trailing at about $65,000. Yitzchak left earlier and his holdings were transfered to the bank.

El Grande

Saarya, Nadine

Which left Nadine to play Saarya a two player El Grande game. Nadine has won all of the last several El Grande games, but Saarya managed to best her in a format she was less used to, pulling ahead early and keeping there through the six rounds of play. Saarya said it was something about him always taking the middle two moves, while Nadine went first and last, thus allowing him to double team with two special cards in a row. Something to think about.


Mar 10, 2004

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Nadine, Ben, Yacov, Sharon

Cosmic Encounter

Ben, Nadine and Yacov all arrived at roughly the same time, for once. It certainly helps make scheduling a little easier. Ben also finally brought Cosmic Encounter with him (Mayfair Cosmic + More Cosmic), so we got to introduce both Yacov and Nadine to the joys of breaking all the rules. We don’t play with all the silliness, but we do play with flares, edicts, reinforcements, kickers, and reverse cones.

After tonight’s two Cosmic games, I’m not sure we should play with the reverse cones. The only real net effect is that, in both games, nobody could ally for or against the last challenge, which kind of ruins the point, I think; I miss everyone allying against someone lest he win, or the possibility of going for a joint win. On the opposite end, as we usually do, we started off the new players with single power games, which we will have to complicate next game.

In the first game, Saarya showed up to take last seat after we flipped the destiny pile for Yacov’s first move; Saarya picked up a Parasite and sat down. The game was over before he had a chance to be the offensive player, as during Yacov’s, Nadine’s, mine, and then Bem’s turns, he simply allied … and gained five bases and won. Yacov was Conneisseur, Nadine the Mirror, Ben … I forget, and Saarya the Parasite, and I was the Ameoba. In the second game, Ben got Conneisseur and Saarya got the Parasite again (out of over a hundred powers, sheesh), Nadine the Fungus, Yacov … I forget, and I was the Reincarnator, once Reincarnated into the Pacifist. I almost took the game, but was hit with a Zap trying to Compromise, and Ben got to take his turn with a reverse cone and win the game.

Railroads of Catan

The next game we gamely tried a rail game I created using the Settlers of Catan board. The game was completely unplayed, so the prices were expected to be way off base, and the turn order was unpolished, with a lot of rules forgotten or done out of order. I expected we would go a round or two and then stop, but it was actually interesting enough that we kept going through four rounds when we had to call it quits in any event. Ben won by a nose despite a huge last gain on my last turn of $53,000 netting me a total of $70,200. Ben had $71,000 exactly. Sharon has something like $69,000 and Nadine had some difficulties, including a derailment at a crucial time, putting her at somewhere in the $30,000 range.

There is definitely a lot of potential here, and a lot of polishing work to be done. See you next week.


Mar 03, 2004

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Nadine, Yitzchak, Ben, Sharon, Rachel A

El Grande

We started off with a 5 player game of El Grande, which lasted way too long. Don’t get me wrong; it was fun. It’s just that we are supposed to fit in our time slot of 2-2.5 hours for a game, and this went from 6:30 (a little later) until 10:00. One of the interludes included yelling at the burger place we ordered from who, for the last time, delivered the wrong order, and then was rude to us and hung up three times when we called them to complain.

In any case, the game was close after round 3, and then Nadine pulled ahead from everyone, as usual. Still, not by that much (6-7 points), so one day we hope to catch her. πŸ™‚

Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers

During this time, Sharon showed up, and Rachel played a game of Carcassonne: H&G with her to keep her occupied, which Sharon won, despite it being her first game (with help from Rachel and then me as the obnoxious kibbitzer). Sharon then practiced playing Set for a while.

Apples to Apples

Being late, we didn’t want to start a full game, so I thought I would just show the group Apples to Apples, not at all a strategic game. It needs the right crowd and the right level of inebriation to really work, but it was a little amusing for newcomers, and YItzchak got a quick win. After that, I also showed them 6 Nimmt, which is also not that strategic, so also not a big win. I can’t remember the winner, and I’m not sure anyone really cares.

Next week is Purim, so Happy Purim everyone.


Feb 25, 2004

Participants: Jon, Nadine, David K, Saarya, Yacov, Rachel, Sharon

El Grande

Nadine has been asking us to play El Grande again, which I am not averse to, so we brough it out for a 5 player game. Some games, particularly El Grande and Princs of Florence work better with the maximum number of players (5), whereas others, such as Settlers and Puerto Rico work better with 4.

In any case, it was Nadine, Saarya, David K, Yacov and myself. A lot of high cards went out early, but after the first scoring round, we were all within 5 points of each other, still. By the second round, however, Nadine had established her dominance, with myself and Saarya 10 points behind, and David K and Yacov another 10 points behind us. Although we tried hard to bring her down, and it helped a bit, Nadine still won by about 6 points. I think I was in second place.

Pente

While this was going on, Sharon showed up. So as not to keep her waiting (we have a lot of slow thinkers, and a lot of group advice being given out during each turn), I played a few games of Pente with her. This was her first time, so I won the first game, but she won the second, and I won the next two. Of course, this distraction was why I ultimately lost El Grande πŸ™‚ (no).

Puerto Rico

Afterwards, we broke out Puerto Rico, for a five player game with myself, David K, Nadine, Rachel (my wife), and Sharon. Again, this was Sharon’s first time, although she had watched many games, and Yacov sat beside her advising her. I took an early lead with coffee, and David, even though he was on my right, got locked out of a lot of traiding, whereas Rachel, on my left with tobacco and a small market benefited from my trades. Rachel looked like she was doing pretty well with cash (eventually having 5 goods and Factory, plus a 10 point bonus from Custom House), but I also looked like I was doing well with shipping, having both Harbor and Wharf. David K also got Factory, however, and eventually Wharf and two big buildings to my none, through a very stupid move on my part of not trading when I should have. Two big buildings is hard to fight, and he won the game 55 to Rachel’s 51 and my 49.

11:30 pm, and time to go home.


Feb 18, 2004

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Yitzchak, Roy

History of the World

A quiet, small group. Roy brought over History of the World. It is played in seven phases, like Die Macher, on a board where each person is vying to control territory, like El Grande, but, unlike El Grande, scoring is after each player’s move, instead of at the end of the round. Each player also has 10 special power cards to help him during his turn.

Unfortunately, it ends up playing more like Risk, since the bulk of the game ends up being combat with the very Risk-like rules: two dice to the attacker, one to the defender, highest die. Lots of rolling and kicking out people from territories. It is definitely better in that there is no early elimination and the game ends after 7 rounds. But the positions are not balanced (it trades some balance for historical accuracy), bad dice rolling is frustrating, and there is little strategy (El Grande doesn’t have much strategy, either, and that is a weakness).

Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers

We elected not to continue after 2.5 hours and the end of round 3, much to Roy’s dissapointment. Instead, we played a game of Carcassonne. I always forget how much more difficult it is as a 4 player game. We also decided to try my brother David’s suggestion of holding 3 tiles, to try to reduce the randomness and increase the strategy. While it did both, to a slight extent, I didn’t feel it added enough to the game to warrant the slightly increased analysis time. I could take it or leave it. In any case, it was a close game, and despite my stealing a waterway from Roy, he managed to find and hold a very profitable field, which won him the game.

Alan Frazin has comlained that he can never make Wednesday nights. If other people want to get together to play on another night, once in a while, he would appreciate it.


Feb 11, 2004

Participants: Jon, Saarya, David K, Nadine, Yacov, Yitzchak, Roy, Sharon

Magic: the Gathering

As often happens, whenever David K is available to play, we met early to play a few pre-sesion games of Magic and Puerto Rico (once with my expansion sets, once without). David says that it is most enjoyable to play as a pair, once with and once without. Too much expansions leaves one discombobulated, too much straight PR can get dull.

Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers

Saarya then joined us for a game of Carcassonne: H&G, where I quickly fell behind, although I started a nice waterway and a field. Saarya played an early tile that locked one meeple of both David and I until late in the game. Then both of them joined my waterway, and then, before I could add a second hut, Saarya added one, and pretty much closed it off. He also managed to join my field, clinching the game.

Die Macher

Five of us, me, David, Saarya, Nadine and Yacov all tried to play the game Die Macher, which David brought to the group. Starting at 6:30, by 9:30 we had finished the explanations and one round, out of seven. At that point, Yacov gave up, Saarya gave up, Nadine wanted to try one more round – she said she liked it, but that it should be four rounds, not seven – David need to go by 11:30, and I was having a ball, even though I was not doing so well, and David had hugely one the first election.

The second round only took half an hour for the 3 of us, which proves my point (I’m not sure what point, but it proves it). I really hope we try it again, now that we know the rules. We may have to play with fewer players or fewer rounds, to fit it into the normal game evening.

Carcassonne: Hunters & Gatherers

While that was going on, Roy and Yitzchak played their first game of Carcassonne: H&G. I understood that neither of them took much of an interest in the fields. Afterwards, Sharon joined them for her first game. I don’t know the results of either of these games.

Bang

Now being about 10:15, and David having to go at 11:30, and leaving us with five players (me, Saarya, David K, Sharon and Nadine), we tried a ganme of Bang. It was pretty good, but there are really two problems with the game: one is that the Renegade really doesn’t have a chance, and two is the early knockout, which leaves players twidling their thumbs while the game finishes, luckily not for too long.

See you next week!


Feb 04, 2004

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Ben, Rachel and Rachel, Yitzchak, Nadine, David K

Once again I delayed this for too long, and now I’m a little hazy on what happened, so here goes, anyway …

Puerto Rico

Jon, Yitzchak, Nadine, Ben, Rachel/Rachel

We taught Yitzchak and Rachel how to play Puerto Rico. Now this is a new Rachel; Ben has been bring a steady supply of new gamers (way to go, Ben!) from his yishuv to play. Rachel (the new one) sat down to play, and my wife Rachel helped her out until she had to go. Ben also bought Puerto Rico so that he could play at his house between games.

Yitzchak had also never played, but he had watched us play before.

Ben once again triumphed, starting out with an early coffee monopoly. I had the opportunity to buy coffee, but with all the coffee plantations already flipped over, when it cam time to buy a building, I figured there wasn’t going to be a plantation left to go with my building by the time it came around to the Settler phase, so I took a Tobacco Storage. Lo and behold, I think 3 more coffees flipped up in the next Settler phase.

As is typical, I also divided my time between trying to win and helping out the new players. I thought we were already in turn 8 so I got a Wharf (better than Harbor in a 5 player game), but it turns out that I had miscounted and we were only on turn 6, so I should have gotten a Factory. What can you do?

Because of Ben’s coffee, he managed to trade for 2 large buildings, which always takes a good position to a winning position. I believe Yitzchak came in second, Rachel/Rachel in 3rd, me in 4th, and Nadine in last, but all very close.

Princes of Florence

David K, Saarya

David K had an unusual chance to play off of hiw regular “every 3 weeks”. He came while we were still playing Puerto Rico, so he sat down to teach Saarya why letting someone get a lot of Jesters is a Bad Idea in Princes of Florence …

Princes of Florence

Jon, Nadine, David K

… and then proceeded to show me and Nadine, as well. The only solution, as he says, is to bid up Jesters until they come at a cost. Now we have to find out where that cost is.

Hey, I just discovered that the boards of Princes of Florence are all subtly color coded to match the pieces. Cool!

Settlers of Catan

Yitzchak, Rachel, Ben

While this was going on, Yitzchak, Ben and Rachel had a quiet game of Settlers, and, for the first time this year, I believe, Ben lost a game. Yitzchak took it.

Boggle

Nadine, Jon

David K left, leaving Nadine and I with not much time until the Settlers game ended, so we played a few quick games of Boggle (I vowed not to mention the results on this page, since it’s not really a strategy game … so there!)

David K bought Die Macher to loan to the game group, so next week will be two gaming tracks: the usual, and a Die Macher track. See you then!


Jan 28, 2004

Participants: Ephrayim, Nadine, Saarya, Yacov, Sharon, Rachel

Puerto Rico w/expansions

Saarya, Yacov, Nadine, Yehuda

Another day, another great gaming session.

I was third player position, Saarya second, which gave him the worst seat, but at least he was in front of me. I can’t remember the expansion buildings used. From now on, I am going to take better notes! I recall that we all thought it was down to Saarya or me, but after flipping over the victory points, it ended up being Nadine who was fourth player position.

Settlers of Catan

Ephrayim, Saarya, Yehuda, Nadine

This was Ephrayim’s first game of Settlers. Being an experienced war gamer, he picked it up pretty quickly. I had an opportunity to completely cut off Nadine, I believe, but I don’t believe in doing that sort of thing, since I don’t enjoy spending an hour and a half with no chance to win, and I suspect that noone else does either. (I will cut off people, just not if it kills them entirely.)

Anyway, it was pretty close for a long while, but I had no wheat, which hurt. I still squeaked out a win by pulling to lucky victory points.

David and Goliath

Nadine, Rachel, Yacov, Yehuda

With not quite enough time left, we played two games of David and Goliath. It is really a good game, somewhere between hearts and bridge. Rachel (my wife) tried a game, but I think Sharon took it. I think. Hmmm. Yacov also played sometime tonight. Oh well. I promise to take better notes next time.


Jan 21, 2004

Participants: Jon, David K, Saarya, Nadine, Roy, Ben, Yitzchak, Sharon

This report is late. I got over being sick, so at least it was at my house again. Again, I don’t remember what games Roy, Yacov, and Yitzchak played, sorry. My memeory is baginning to go.

Magic: the Gathering

David Klein comes only once every 3 sessions, so when he comes, we try to play some early games before the official session starts. In this case, we got in a draft of magic cards. Each time we play, I try to come up with something different. This time, I took a random 96 cards, 16 from each color and 16 artifacts/special lands/golds. I shuffled, gave each of us 48. We each picked 2 cards, and passed one to our opponent, then picked 2 more cards, etc… Usually we use the same 96 cards and do a standard 4 card up draft.

Anyway, though I usualy lose horribly, this time we came up with balanced decks, and I felt I had a chance. He won 2 out of 3, anyway.

Puerto Rico w/expansions

We moved on to a 2 player game of Puerto Rico using 2/3 my buildings. I don’t know how often I have to repeat this: my buildings ROCK! Playing PR with them takes a great game to amazing. I usually don’t brag this much about what I do, but I haven’t heard much from others around the world, yet, except for some noise inItaly and one group in the U.S. The rest of you are just missing out. Anyway, I won the game by a few VP’s, about the time that Nadine showed up.

Princes of Florence

Nadine and David and Roy and I played Princs of Florence. I’m starting to get into it, but I really don’t think I will ever really love it unless I can make up some new things for it. It is more like a puzzle than a game. As seems to be a familiar pattern, Nadine pulled into an early lead, and just kept it. Well done.

Settlers of Catan

While this was going on, Ben and Saarya and Yitzchak played Settlers of Catan. Ben, the guy who complains that he never has any luck, won again, making him 3 for 3 this year.

Citadels

Ben and Sharon and Saarya and Yacov played a game of Citadels, just to prove that we still don’t like it. I tried to explain that it is about bluffing, not choosing the best card, but it still just doesn’t work for us. Sharon put evryone out of their misery by winning quickly.

Bang

For the comic part of the evening, we had exactly 7 people, and it looked like an opportunity to try out Bang, which I had bought but never played, yet. With a lot of whining and wheedling, I convinced everyone to try. What followed was rather amusing, as I didn’t remember any of the rules, and they are not easy to understand from the instaructions whcih rely on all these symbols.

We tossed the cards around and almost gave up, but struggled through. Once we understood what was going on, we actually enjoyed ourselves. I was the first player eliminated (I shot at lots of people, and it is the general rule to target me first, it seems). Ealy elimiation is definitely a downside to the game. It was down to David (renegade), Yacov (sherriff) and Sharon (deputy). Sharon had already convinced everyone that she was a deputy, but David K worked hard at trying to confuse Yacov (successfully), but Sharon managed to lay him low anyway, leading to a win for Sharon and Yacov.


Jan 14, 2004

Participants: Ben, Saarya, Yacov, Nadine, Hanna, Yitzchak, Sharon

This report is late in coming, and I was also sick and I couldn’t host. Nadine lives around the corner, so she hosted. Thanks Nadine for saving the day!

Settlers of Catan

Ben, Saarya, Yacov, Nadine SoC: Ben 10, S 9, Y 9, N 8

Ben, Hana, Yitzchak, Sharon Soc: Ben 10, Ha 5, Yi 6, Sh 4

Ben, Saarya, Yacov and Nadine played Settlers. A very close game, with Ben winning, Saarya and Yacov both at 9, and Nadine at 8.

Ben brought two newcomers, Hanna and Yitzchak. So they played an introductory game of Settlers (what else?) with Sharon, where Ben won again, this time a trounce. I told Ben he should let new players win, but he doesn’t listen to me (Ben is my younger older brother).

Puerto Rico

Saarya, Nadine, Yacov PR: Saarya 61, N 52, Y 39

Meanwhile, Saarya, Nadine and Yacov played Puerto Rico. I didn’t hear much about this one except the final scores: Saarya 61, Nadine 52, Yacov 39. Well done, Saarya.


Jan 07, 2004

Attendees: Jon, Ephrayim, Nadine, Sharon, Saarya

This report has been a long time coming, so it will be brief and as accurate as my memory:

El Grande

Nadine and Ephrayim, Saarya and I (Jon) played El Grande. Nadine took an early lead, and basically kept it for the rest of the game. I think I came second.

David and Goliath

Then Sharon came, and we all played David and Goliath, where Nadine won again, by some ridiculous number of points.

Settlers of Catan

Ephrayim had to go, so we played a game of Settlers, where Sharon trounced us by pulling a string of good numbers.

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