July to December 2004

Dec 29, 2004

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Tal, Rachel A, Yitzchak, David K, Elijah, Daniel, Nadine, Shlomo, Yedidya

Yedidya is another in a series of people who called wanting to know what the game group was about. Only he actually showed up. But it turns out he didn’t really get what he wanted, or so it seemed. After explaining the game of Amun Re to him and into the middle of the first round, he suddenly remembered he had to go somewhere and couldn’t really come on Wednesdays, but could I forward him info on any chess groups in Jerusalem?

Amun Re

Shlomo 42, Daniel 39, Yitzchak 36, David K 36, Elijah 32

Shlomo Argamon flew in for his semi-annual visit and dropped by, so he sat in after Yedidya. He came late, and was supposed to join our Tikal game, but since we had already started, he played Amun Re instead. This started another round of explanations, as he also never had played Amun Re, although he had played other games in our group before. By the time they got started, it was about 7:30 or so, and the first three rounds didn’t end until 9:30. More on that later.

The last three rounds went much quicker. David K was sorely behind. Elijah got at least 35 gold after the third round’s farming, but spent a lot on the next auction. By the end, Shlomo the pyramid builder claimed a narrow victory.

Tikal

Jon 145, Saarya 130, Tal 105

We waited for Shlomo to start this, but when he said he would be late, we started without him. I mercilessly beat my 13 year old son and 11 year old daughter.

Tal requsted to play, as she is always looking for another game like Settlers of Catan that she can enjoy with me and/or her friends. She was definitely quite capable here, playing fine for her first game. Unfortunately for them, they both fought over an early 9 point temple (eventually 10 point), neither one wanting to sacrifice their tokens to guard it, but, in effect, doing so. I collected the most treasures, and spread out among several lesser temples, pulling a comfortable victory.

Saarya had originally wanted to play Torres, so I will have to find some time to play that with him.

I had recently read both New Rules for Classic Games and A Gamut of Games, which made me want to play something from them. Also, I have a hankering to try out more games that the entire group can play, instead of always splitting into two or more games. Towards the end of Tikal, I decided to make up a set of Haggle, using some old playing cards and wirting out a set of random rules. Haggle is described in both books.

Haggle is a game where two or three rulesets are created, and each player, other than the rule creator, gets a set of cards and two rules from the set. The rules are on the order of: “diamonds are worth 4 points each, unless you have six or more, in which case they are worth 3 points each”, etc… Each player must trade cards and/or rules in order to both discover and collect the best hand. At the end of a preset time, such as ten minutes, each player hands in their cards and is scored. It sounds like a lot of fun, and should work well with any size large group.

Unfortunately for me, by the time our Tikal game was ended, they had just finished round three in Amun Re (you were wondering when I was going to get back to this, weren’t you?). I proposed a break in Amun Re for a game of Haggle, but Yitzchak was adamant about finishing one damn game this evening before going home (while David K wanted to quit). Unfortunately for me (even more), this left me without any play partners.

TCP 4

Tal (won), Jon, Saarya

Luckily for me, Tal and Saarya were both willing to play a short game with me while we waited for them to speed up. I inflicted on them yet another in my series of games played with three colored pegs: red, yellow and blue. The theme behind all of the games is that the pegs combine to make other colors (red/yellow => orange, etc…).

In this game, played on a 4 x 4 grid, there is a shared pile of 16 of each colored peg. Each player is dealt a card with one of the three secondary colors (orange, green, purple) which he keeps secret. Each player then takes a peg of his choice and places it on the board, such that he doesn’t put the same colored peg into the same location. You win when either a) anyone creates three in a row of your color, or b) you place a piece such that it forms three browns in a row (brown = all three colors).

I was hoping that the secret of who was playing which color would hinder the usual problem of three player abstracts, which is always being able to block what the third player is doing. Unfortunately, it was rather easy to guess early on who was what, so it didn’t really work out. Still, the game was guaranteed to terminate by someone winning in brown. Except that I carelessly let Tal win three in a row in her color, as I was distracted. Back to the drawing board.

Puerto Rico + expansions

David K 47, Rachel A 46, Jon 42, Nadine 36

Since David K wasn’t interested in the end of the Amun Re game, he shuttled back and forth between the last moves of Amun Re and the first moves of PR.

This PR game was almost completely expansion buildings. The only buildings we didn’t toss were Hacienda, Wharf, and City Hall. The other buildings:

  • Assembly Line (1/1): all production buildings hold additional colonist. Nadine bought this thinking it wasn’t too useful (?), but both she and Rachel made reasonably good use out of it.
  • Civil Office (2/1): Choose one phase. Get double privilege for that phase when you pick it. I took this as my first building and chose Builder. David took it and chose Settler, because he found the killer combo with Soybeans (see next building). BTW, the double privilege is like Library’s privilege.
  • Soybean Plant (3/1): Pick a soybean plantation. Soybean is like corn, but if there is no soybean space to ship, ship on corn and/or sugar boats for 1/2 point each. In addition, other players can ship corn or sugar on soybean boat for 1/2 point each. This is a complex building, maybe a bit powerful (as you get, effectively, a corn each round) but it needs to be combined with something else. David K comboed this with Civil Office, and ended up with 4 quarries and 5 soybeans.
  • Mayor’s Estate (4/2): +1 colonist during Mayor phase. Simple and clean, I could have used it, but didn’t take it.
  • Inheritance (5/2): Take the corresponding plantation when buying a production building. Cute, but a little expensive.
  • Exchange House (5/2): Swap (not trade) one of your barrels with one in the trading house at the end of the Trader phase. This is one of my best buildings. In some games it doesn’t do very much. In others, it is a powerhouse. This was one of the latter games. Rachel bought Coffee, but I just swapped for it, and traded it every time I needed to, which shut her coffe down. To add insult to injury, in later rounds I swapped for goods to ship (only once, actually). A wonderful and simple building which completely adds a new dimention to the game, without dominating it (most of the time).
  • Specialization Wharf (6/2): When crafting, place one of your barrels into SW. You have Wharf for that good, only. Barrel no longer considered one of your goods. This is another fairly well designed building – you lose one barrel, and you lose flexibility. Again, in this game it was more poweful than usual, in that David K had 5 soybeans to ship each round. Nadine also made good use of it.
  • Supermarket (7/3): trade at +3. Another simple building, better than Large Market, almost as good as Factory. With Exchange House it shines, since I could almost always trade.
  • Large Business (8/3): Builder and Captain privileges. A better balanced building than Harbor, which is a bit powerful in 3 player, in my opinion.
  • Royal Market (8/3): take vp’s instead of gp’s for your trade. A strange building, which is worth buying after the big buildings are gone, as it then becomes the most efficient means of vps for gps. Until then, however, you are better off saving them.

There were also 4 various large buildings, which were interesting. As I said, David K worked hard with his Civil Office (Settler) and Soybean combo, while I went for big cash and building power. Nadine got indigo and Spec Wharf, while Rachel got coffee and then Large Business. At the end, Nadine and Rachel were right in that I have an advantage having created the buildings in that I know exactly how the rules work. David K said that playing with expansions is much better than playing straight, and I can’t argue with that.

Geschenkt

Saarya 43, Yitzchak 58, Daniel 114

Daniel and I love Geschenkt, but I recognize that not everyone likes everything, and this one didn’t hit it off with Yitzchak. There was not much time was left before Yitzchak had to leave. Still he tried it, and said that there was still enough time for one game of …

San Juan

Yitzchak 37, Daniel 26, Saarya 26

This game sure seems like it should be growing stale, but it doesn’t. It seems like it gets better each time we play (slowly, but surely). It can’t get too much better – until the expansion sets get released, that is. And there better be, because this just screams expansion buildings.

Daniel once again had the hand full of 6 pointers in the opening, but Yitzchak built the solid city by game end. Didn’t see the final buildings.

There was a bit too much running around, shouting, and chaos in general this time. I hope things run smoother next time.


Dec 22, 2004

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Nadine, Daniel, Yitzchak, David K, Elijah, Shai-El

This week: I started trying to write my blog again. I’m going to try to write a few times a week, even silly stuff, just to keep my hand in.

This week I received 2 great books: A Gamut of Games, by Sid Sackson and New Rules for Classic Games by R Wayne Schmittberger. Both are so full of great game ideas that use simple components, that it’s a wonder I spent my childhood playing boring games like Gin rummy and Stratego. I feel like I could teach a game course now. Inspirational.

Also been playing many games of PR on puertoricogame.net, an email slow PR game site, that lets you think or break between moves, as opposed to the real-time game sites, such as brettspielwelt.de .

Torres

David K 204, Saarya 202, Jon 199

We all knew that David K would be the one to love this game, and also be the one not to play with, as almost every move he spent in deep concentration trying to maximize every last point (with a lot of “Sorry”‘s for taking so long), followed by ten minutes (or more) of kicking himself for making some real or imagined sub-optimal play. When it all came down to it, while we had fun, we were all so close in score that one wonders where the difference comes from, as we all see, basically, the optimal plays each time, give or take a self-kick or two.

In the end, David didn’t take unbearably long. This was also first game for Saarya.

In this game, Saarya started off with the king near him (and me), and David had to traipse across the board to get the bonus. I started with my usual jump up, followed by placing a piece under my kniight. David pointed out that the better cards are probably best left until the end, since point counting at the beginning is not much compared to at the end, anyway. He’s probably right.

David ended the first round a few points behind, leaving the King where it was, which caused me no end of headaches, and required 5 actions on my part to get the next bonus, not including a diagonal jump card. By the end of the second round, we were all within one point of each other. That’s when David’s position as high point on the biggest castle took him into a slight lead which he carried over for the slight win at the end of the game.

Geschenkt

Saarya 46, Jon 59,David K 69

Another first game for David, and very quick. This one is still a lot of fun, primarily because there is no perfect optimal play. The luck gives you only a best chance. Even when you know what cards are removed, you only get best chance of the cards you need coming up when the tokens are in the right place, and when other players can’t benefit from the same card.

Here I tried for an early high card, but only got a run of two, which wasn’t enough to match Saarya’s several pulls into two runs and many stones.

Jon 62,David K 80,Saarya 129

In this one, Saarya found himself without stones time after time, as David kept taking the following card, forcing him to take the next one without stones again. Finally Saarya took the one card David needed to meld two runs, which didn’t help Saarya, but put me into first place.

San Juan

Yitzchak 37, Nadine 35, Daniel 27, Elijah 25

Played while we were finishing Torres, and then Geschenkt. Four player is quite different than 3 or 2. Daniel decided on a heavy Chapel strategy, building one the first round, and placing every turn. He ended up with 14 points from Chapel cards alone, but not enough anything else. He complained that he never saw a 6 point building, to which I noted that his field wasn’t developed enough to cycle through cards, so his odds of picking one were reduced. That’s why first round Chapel doesn’t work so well. As usual, the game came down to Guild Hall vs City Hall, and Guild Hall won out.

Yitzchak 31, Daniel 30, Shai-El 26

Shai-El was brought over late in the evening by Yitzchak. I explained to him about some of what we play, and while I was finishing Tikal, he played a game of San Juan as his first intro to German games, and he liked it. In this game, Daniel drew one of each of the 4 6 pointers all at once, and then built City Hall and promptly pulled the next Guild Hall. Shai-El managed to get down City Hall and Palace, leaving poor Yitzchak with only Triumphal Arch. But, when the points were counted, Yitzchak’s many Silvers and monuments won the day for him, as Daniel and Shai-El had built too many low cost buildings.

Taj Mahal

Daniel 88, Yitzchak 51, Elijah 45

We split to play 3 player Taj Mahal and Tikal. I feared that Tikal might be too much for Elijah, and since Daniel and Yitzchak both wanted to play it, and Nadine wanted Tikal, off they went. Daniel continued his run for palace connections (definitely easier in 3 player than in 5 player), and succeeded in connecting every province except the first, in which he withdrew without bidding. Yitzchak had lots of elephants, but couldn’t translate that into victory.

Tikal

Saarya 122, Nadine 122, Jon 114

First play for all of us. I feared that if Torres were too much analysis, then Tikal would be worse, since a) that’s what they say, and b) it has twice as many action points, and twice as many actions. To my pleasant surprise, it was not the case, since the higher randomness of the tiles , treasures, and number of possible good plays made it unlikely that there was an optimal play, so we just did what seeemd best, except when we wanted to steal something.

The treasures were a real pain, since no sooner did you discover one, that someone else swapped you for the one they wanted and dumped you with something uninteresting. All around, Tikal had a better theme, better graphics and components, and better gameplay than Torres. And we played with the non-auction version. All of us knew instinctively that the auction version is going to be ten times better.

The first scoring round saw us all at about 7-10 points. Saarya quickly got the 10 point temple sowed up, and Nadine established a base camp, after collecting set after set of treasures. (Why do all game designers play with this 1,3,6 rule?) By second round, Nadine was at 30, Saarya at 40, and I at 34. Saarya looked like he was headed for victory. Still, he had little in the way of treasures, and Nadine’s hand just grew, until she had 3 complete sets and some oddballs. I think it is a problem that treasure hexes only have up to 4 treasures, but you can take up to two per round. One per round might work better. Also curious tha they put the larger treasure hexes up front, and the smaller ones later.

By third score, I had the 9 temple and was working in two opposite corners, and Nadine finally grabbed a series of 6 point temples. Scores were Nadine 74, Saarya 7, me 68. Nadine wasn’t paying too much attention, since she didn’t know what tiles she would get, there was not much she could do to plan, and there is no interaction during other player’s turns (we could probably fix that, too 🙂 … ok, we’ll wait a while before messing with the game).

Last score brought Saarya to 121, Nadine to 120, and me to 114. However, we recounted and got a different result. Then we did it again and got another different result. This went on for some time, with different results each time, so even though we think we got the right result finally, odds are that we miscounted somewhere else along the way, so final scores are highly questionable, and it ended on a tie, anyway.

Definitely hoping to play this one again, with four players, and considering it with two, also.


Dec 15, 2004

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Yitzchak, Rachel A

I received 4 new games for Hannukah: Torres, Tikal, Traumfabrik, and Abalone. (I also bought Battle Cry for my son which should arrive at the end of the month). I have a little trepidation, as the first two tend to bog down with over-analyzers, which is what we have. If things get bad, I will have to force time limits, which will just make the game unenjoyable for those people who simply MUST always make the best move, even if it means taking back a move finished five minutes ago.

Torres

Jon 224, Yitzchak 214, Nadine 212

We only got to one of the new games this week. Torres has a basic theme about rebuilding castles, but it is basically an abstract game. You have 5 points each round within which to do any of the following in any combination: place a castle piece, place a knight, move a knight, buy a card, or buy a vp. Cards are played once per round, for free, and are always worth at least the action paid to get them.

Naturally, you always need just a few more action points than you have.

I had a two game advantage over Yitzchak and Nadine, but they figured it out fairly quickly, Yitzchak a little more than Nadine, who seemed more to psyche herself out that it is the type of game she shouldn’t get. As you can see, the final scores were very close, and Yitzchak just pulled ahead of Nadine in the final round.

Yitz’s last two rounds were spent trying to ensure that I didn’t get the king’s bonus, which succeded, but not enough.

Puerto Rico + expansions

Yitzchak 54, Jon 46, Nadine 43, Rachel 37

A very interesting game with some wild expansion buildings. The building set was:

  • Small Market
  • Surveyor’s Office
    Choose any plantation from the supply instead of a face up one.
  • Bazaar
    Trade anything for a colonist during Mayor, anything for a good during Crafstman, anything for a GP during Trader.
  • Small Warehouse
  • Mine
    pay 1 less per building (no restrictions)
  • Exchange House
    At the end of Trader, swap one of your goods for one in Trading House (no restrictions)
  • Developer
    Like Crane in San Juan, may trade buildings in and rduce the cost of a new building. Colonists from old buildings move to new ones. Also, you have no quarry restrictions.
  • Specialization Wharf
    Place one of your goods on SW at the end of the Craftsman phase, discarding the good on it if any. You have a Wharf of the type of good on SW.
  • Marble Works
    Take Marble quarry. 2 marble quarries and 2 colonists on MW make 1 marble during Craftsman. Marble sells for 5, ships with any other good for 2, and doesn’t need to be stored.
  • Library
  • Harbor
  • Wharf
  • Guild Hall
  • Fortress
  • Custom’s House
  • Assembally (5 VP)
    +1 VP/round
  • Giant Production Building (5 VP)
    +1 of each type of good you produce

With such strange and diverse buildings, strange and diverse strategies ensued.

Rachel went for a round four Giant Production Building, followed by a Small Warehouse. She didn’t get too much out of it until a few rounds later, unfortunately. She also didn’t get Harbor, and a late Specialization Wharf only let her ship 6 goods.

Yitzchak got many corns, a coffee monopoly, harbor, and Specialization Wharf, followed up with Custom’s House. An easy win.

Nadine got an early Tobacco and Harbor, but no big building until a too late Assembally.

I don’t know why, but I got 4 early quarries, Mine, and Developer. Unfortunately the colonist requirements for all of this made me unable to produce anything, so I never had a good to trade, which made others almost as rich as me until late game, plus they were shipping. It was just too slow to get the 3 big buildings I wanted, so I only ended with 2. Argh. I shipped 5 VP, and had 41 in building points. Not enough to chase Yitzchak who had 28 shipping VP +7 CH bonus, to add to his other 19 building points. At the end I was taking buildings for free but wasting my bonuses on them. And everyone else was hapy to ship.

Still boggles the mind that our group is (almost) the only group that plays with these buildings. See you next week!


Dec 08, 2004

Participants: Jon, Elijah, Daniel, Nadine, Rachel A, Tal
Happy Channukah. I made potato latkes, and Nadine brought brownies (thank you – yum).

Through the Desert

Jon 81, Elijah 7?, Daniel 65

Once again, Through the Desert proved to be an interesting game, but not a spectacular game. I am growing disenchanted with it. Which is a shame, because I still enjoy playing it, but others don’t see the shine.

Geschenkt

This is a simple auction game, where the objects you are acquiring are bad, so you are bidding to prevent yourself from getting them. Each round a card is flipped up, and you either take the card or toss in a token to give the next player the same choice. When you take the card, you also take all tossed in tokens. Your score is the face value of the cards minus your tokens at the end, and points are bad. Also, runs of card only score the lowest card. To keep you on your toes, 9 cards are tossed out at random to start from a set of cards numbered 3 to 35. Each player starts with 11 tokens.

This is a very nice bidding game, which feels like Ra-lite, even though Ra itself is a lite game. Strategy is not that deep, however, so it may not hold interest for too long.

Jon 34, Daniel 43, Elijah 94

The beauty of new German games that are really really simple, is not that they are easy to teach and fun to play. It is that they can be created from components I have lying around the house. To create the deck, I used the Flinch cards that I had previously cannabalized to make 6 Nimmt (Take 6), and took out the 3 through 35. For markers, I first used the camels from TtD, and later Othello pieces.

The first game, I used cards 3 – 33 by accident, instead of to 35, and I played that the first bidder in each card was to the left of the player who bid first on the previous round, which was hard to keep track of, and wrong, anyway.

Daniel 26, Elijah 63, Jon 66

In this game, we started each auction off correctly, but we still played only with cards to 33.

Daniel 30, Elijah 31, Jon 75

Played correctly this time. Elijah didn’t want to play again. Daniel liked it.

Nadine 3, Jon 68, Daniel 86

Nadine 31, Jon 60, Daniel 62

These two games were played to close the evening.

6 Nimmt

Jon 49, Daniel 53, Elijah 55

Since I had the cards out, I showed Daniel and Elijah 6 Nimmt. This was the closest game we even played of 6 Nimmt. We had stopped playing a while ago because there is not much in the way of strategy, but with 3 players it is not too bad. Nothing special.

Puerto Rico

Nadine 39 + 2 (6 ship + 33 build), Rachel 39 + 1 (10 ship + 29 build), Jon 33 (11 ship + 22 build), Daniel 24 (10 ship + 14 build), Elijah 24 (15 ship + 9 build)

This was a wierd game. We dragged Daniel kicking and screaming into trying it again, since he hates PR due to there being too many rules and too many choices each round, and he complained the whole time, but he did finish the game.

The rule changes were: Hospice lets you move a colonist onto it when you buy it, Trading Post instead of Office, Large Waehouse lets you take any one barrel for free when you buy it, University comes with a colonist on it.

Rachel ended up buying an early Hospice and Construction Hut. I ended up buying a large warehouse. Notable facts:

  • The seating order was me, Daniel, Elijah, Nadine, and Rachel, which Rachel and Nadine carefully constructed, since they knew that Elijah was somewhat careless about his crafting and they wanted to take advantage of this. When women conspire …
  • Daniel also didn’t try to figure it out, so ended up doing lots of crafting into Nadine and Rachel. Between the two of them, I couldn’t trade the coffee I began producing on turn 4 or so once the entire game. Not once.
  • Instead, I had to buy the large warehouse, just to get a tobacco to trade with it, which was the only good that I couldn’t produce, and ended up being the only good I traded the whole game. The Lg Warehouse gave me some VP’s, but just shy of the amount I would have gotten if I had just gotten a large building as I could have at the time.
  • If I had gotten it, I still wouldn’t have won, but Nadine’s victory would have been more decisive, as Rachel wouldn’t have gotten it (it was left unmanned when the game ended).
  • As you can see, there was very little in the way of shipping this game. I had Factory and 4 goods, Elijah built nothing but tobacco and lg indigo for the entire game, until building harbor on the last round, Nadine also had Factory and coffee, but she was able to trade it, Rachel had tobacco and sugar to trade.

Settlers of Catan

Daniel 10, Tal 6, Elijah 4

From what I heard, Daniel played a powerful wood monopoly, which basically ended the game shortly thereafter.

San Juan

Jon 57, Nadine 48

This was a fairly long game for us, and I couldn’t get many 6 point buildings, despite having early Prefecture and Library. I eventually found them. Nadine played too many early little buildings. I had a Chapel with 10 cards under it by game end. The gory details:

Governor Roles Jon build Nadine build Trade value
Jon Build/Pros/Coun Prefecture Gold Mine
Nadine Build/Pros/Counc Carpenter
Jon Build/Pros/Prod Tobacco
Nadine Pros/Trad/Counc 11122
Jon Build/Prod/Counc Quarry Market Hall
Nadine Pros/Build/Trad Library 12233
Jon Counc/Build/Pros+ Chapel Quarry
Nadine Pros/Counc+/Build Statue Indigo
Jon Pros+/Prod/Counc
Nadine Trad/Build+/Prod City Hall City Hall 11223
Jon Counc/Pros/Trad 12223
Nadine Trad/Counc+/Build Hero Palace 11222
Jon Prosp+/Prod/Counc
Nadine Trad/Build+/Prod Victory Column Hero 11122
Jon Counc/Build/Pros+ Triumphal Arch
Nadine Prod/Build+/Trad Palace Statue 12233
Jon Build+ Aqueduct Victory Column

Dec 01, 2004

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Rachel A, David K, Elijah, Michael, Nadine, Yitzchak, Daniel, Jonathan

A good hopping night. I also got a call from someone new at 6:30 who said he would come for the 9:00 game, but didn’t show. Welcome to Jonathan, who had played El Grande once with us on shabbat, and was awake enough tonight to try out the full group.

You guys aren’t bringing snacks like you’re supposed to. That’s not too much to ask for an admission price, and I’m happy to serve the tea. Please bring something with you, next time!

San Juan

David K, Elijah

Both of the above came a bit early, so they played around with this for a while, but ended when the main games started.

Jon 46, David K 31

Toward the end of the evening, we played a game of this after I got my usual whipping in M:tG, and David was nice enough to let me win, as he Councelled dozens of times through the deck with Library and only found one 6 point building, Guild Hall. It wasn’t enough to take on me with City Hall, Palace, 2 monuments and Chapel.

His early Prefecure was balanced against my early Library, which two dominated the game play. We think my Library had the edge. However, David K could have played better, as every time he took Councellor, he left Builder and Prospector for me, which made my life easy.

Settlers of Catan

Daniel 10, Elijah 7, Nadine 6, Jonathan 5

Best game for introduing new folk (at least, until we try Ticket to Ride). The game took a while, and looked quite spirited, but I don’t know exacly what happened.

Goa

David K 43, Jon 31, Saarya 26, Yitzchak 24

I decided to try Goa one more time, as opinion last time was that without the random Colony founding it plays better. OK, yes it does. I still hate it. I can no longer say why, exactly.

David K got bad luck with the expedition card drawing, and still killed us during one auction where he won everything but one plantation. And the end of the game, where he had 8 expedition cards (4, 3, and 1) – even without them, he still would have won. But the luck factor of the caards, plus the strength of the card track still bugs me. Without that track, se out on a quarter of the possible points of the game, so you have to go for it, and not everyone can get it. Still, that is not the problem.

Maybe it’s the hopeless feeling in the auction, maybe it’s the complete lack of interaction (yeah, some resources get exhausted, and yeah, somebody races (if you can call a turtle’s pace “racing”) for the progression, but … blah. Too bad. I would really like to like it, and I’m happy that others in the group like it. If Daniel can not like PR, I can not like Goa.

David K started off doing everything wrong (in his words), and had bad luck with expedition cards. But, because of one killer auction round, and the fact that he got to last row in the expedition cards and then swapped for the expedition card tile, he won easily.

Amun Re

Yitzchak 47, Daniel 38+, Saarya 38-

From last in Goa to first in Amun Re, Yitzchak already had this sealed after the first round, I think. One comment I heard was that 3 player, unlike 5 player, was harder to match the bonus cards, since it was possible that the required provinces simply didn’t turn up. Daniel’s 38 included more pyramids, so he claimed second place on the tie.

Puerto Rico

Nadine 63, Rachel A 57, Michael 42, Elijah 30

Rachel told me that Elijah kept Crafting right into Nadine’s hands, allowing her to trade and/or ship (35 shipping points) with impunity. They played with a number of my expansion buildings.

Jon +, Rachel A – At the very end of the evening, we had a quick two player using the same buildings. A dull game, but a quick victory.

Magic: the Gathering

David K 2 games, Jon 0

I don’t know why I bother. The last game David won from down to 6 life to my 20. We played Rochester draft.

Next week is Channaukah, and we will play as usual for those interested.


Nov 24, 2004

Participants: Jon, Daniel, Elijah, Nadine, Yitzchak, Saarya (1/2)

We miss Sharon.

San Juan

Twice we started San Juan games, only to break them off in favor of other games and gamers waiting.

El Grande

Elijah 82, Jon 82, Daniel 82, Nadine 80, Yitzchak 77

I prefer the original El Grande, in general, and we had two new players, Daniel and Elijah. From the first day that Daniel came here and professed his love for controlled chaotic games, I knew that he would love El Grande, and he did. In fact, both newcomers were tied for first place in a very close game.

Nadine, Daniel and Elijah all had spiky period, gaining 20 points at a time, while I had sustained growth, to take a lead midway by a few points, but couldn’t quite sustain my lead. The final count was nailbiting, and it ended in a three way tie.

Settlers of Catan

Daniel 10, Jon 6, Yitzchak 5

Settlers is quick and mostly painless. My usual turn is roll *clatter* *clatter* flip flip “Go”, in about 5 seconds total. I got a slew of ores from an early series of 11’s, but got robbed over and over so that was that. Daniel continued his “start on a harbor” strategy, with a sheep harbor and an 8/10 sheep. He somehow purveyed this into 6 points, longest road and two VP cards. I also drew a VP card (three of first four cards were VP’s), but was otherwise way behind (not enough wheat).

Still waiting for new games to arrive. Sigh.


Nov 17, 2004

Participants: Jon, Rachel A, Daniel, Nadine, Sharon, Elijah, Michael, David K, Avraham, Yitzchak

A good game night, but a sad day for the JSGC, as we say goodbye to Sharon, leaving for Chapel Hill. I have already given her some info about game groups over there, so I hope she hooks up. We’ll miss you! I made a little cake for the occasion.

Also, welcome back David K and Avraham K after a long absence, and congradulations to Avraham for graduating army service. Hope to see you both more often. Also, welcome back to Michael, Elijah’s father, whose only previous appearance was game day, Sukkot.

Taj Mahal

Jon 58, Daniel 55, Sharon 32, Elijah/Michael 30

This was an exciting game, although it looked like Jon pulled out ahead very quickly, Daniel did a lot of closing the gap. Jon collected so many commodities that he just concentrated on them, gaining 10 points from his elephants on the last round. Meanwhile, Daniel concentrated on links, gaining 10 points from them on his last round (ten connected provinces). Unfortunately for him, Elijah took the first withdrawal in the last round and the four point token. If Daniel had played the right card to stay in, he would have gotten all of the castles and the token, and would have won by a point.

Daniel expressed his great happiness about the game.

Puerto Rico + expansions

Jon more, Rachel slightly less

While 4 people were playing Goa and another four playing SoC, Rachel and Jon played a quick two player game of PR with expansions. Jon started first, with a strong disadvantage of 4 or more VP’s from defensive captaining. Nevertheless, he quickly produced 4 corn and 3 indigo.

Also, taking coffee to fight Rachel instead of tobacco helped. In the end, Jon grabbed Guild Hall, and shipped about the same as Rachel, while Rachel took a building to prevent Jon from getting it (bonus per corn plantation), and lost on the point differential, basically.

Settlers of Catan

Elijah 10, Michael 9, Sharon 6, Daniel 6

Didn’t see this one, but at one point I heard Daniel say he had 11 sheep in his hand and a sheep harbor. At another point, Sharon complained about some alleged ganging up.

Goa

Yitzchak 46, Nadine 43, David 41, Avraham 35

We haven’t done a lot of Goa, mostly because I complained about it. But Yitzchak and Nadine were willing to give it another try, since David K loves it, and Avraham hadn’t tried it. I gave them two ideas to help fix the game in my opinion: 1) no flipping for colonists, just add 4 to your attempt (also, taking a colonist is an action). 2) when picking cards, draw 2, and keep 1.

After consideration, they decided to go with 1), and not go with 2). I guess there was o horrible card picking like when I play, and they decided that it makes the card track even stronger which is a Bad Thing. On the other hand, they liked the no flipping for colonies. The impression on Nadine was mixed(?), but Yitzchak had a very enjoyable game after the previous blah experiences. In my opinion, 3 player is a broken auction. 4 player can be broken auction, but doesn’t have to be (it wasn’t in this game, I gather). 2 player auction is fine. Then there is the lack of interactions. I think something like AoS bidding for special abilities could help that.

Nadine: The main problem with Goa, other than that I’m not so good at bidding because I can’t keep track of how much money people have – but that’s not a game problem, is the down time while waiting for other people to take their turns. There is nothing to do, you don’t even need to watch because what other players are doing isn’t critical to your plans like it is in games such as Puerto Rico. This is especially annoying when someone has several extra actions. It’s bad enough that they get the bonus of extra actions without the additional penalty of boredom for the other players. Maybe limiting extra action cards per round would be good, it would also prevent saving them, which I did because it was too hard to figure out in advance what I wanted to produce. But I only saved one….

Anyway, an enjoyable game was had by all, including Avraham, but very long. Yitzchak won, and oh what a surprise, he had a completed expedition card track and 11 points in cards in his hand.

San Juan

Daniel 22, Avraham 19

Daniel taught Avraham to play while Daid and I played Magic. The first game ended very abruptly, no big buildings, as Daniel built and built each round, ending the game while he was ahead.

Avraham 27, Daniel 24

Avraham took the next game with a Guild Hall and a lot of production buildings.

Puerto Rico

Rachel 56, Sharon 51, Nadine 45

The Estrogen Club had its last game before Sharon goes off to the states. Both Nadine and Sharon had early Harbors, but Rachel had a coffee monopoly, lots of corn, a Small Warehouse and three big buildings.

Magic: the Gathering

David 1, Jon 0

Been a long time since we had a game of Magic, so David and Jon did a quick draft. As usual, David pulled off a victory, but closer than usual. He ended the game with a Soul Burn while at 9 points, doing 6 points of damage (and going up to 14). Jon may actually have won in another 2 rounds or so.


Nov 10, 2004

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

Welcome to another adventure-filled evening of gaming. Thrills! Spills! Death-defying leaps! Near-miss collisions! All free!

Ahem.

David and Goliath

Ben 74, Jon 64, Yitzchak 57, Sharon 38, Nadine 25

Ben hasn’t been back in a while, and this is why … just kidding. Ben managed to pull 5 cards, one of each suit, all 13 or higher, until the last few rounds, where he then pulled another 14, and lost one suit, ending at the inredible score of 74.

David and Goliath was our warm-up-wait-for-the-other-players game.

Amun-Re

Daniel 42+, Yitzchak 42-, Jon 36, Ben 36, Saarya 31ish

We had nine people, enough for a full game of Amun-Re and still four left over for PR. We haven’t tried AR for a while, and not with a full complement, which is reportedly best.

Provinces and scores:

After turn 3:

  • Daniel: Thebes / Kharga / Avaris // 11
  • Yitzchak: Buto / Dakhla / Amarna // 17
  • Jon: Abydos / Berenike / Damanhur // 16
  • Saarya: Baharya / Mendes / Memphis // 9
  • Ben: Edfu / Abu / Sawu // 11

After turn 6:

  • Daniel: Kharga / Buto / Abydos // 42 + most pyramids
  • Yitzchak: Damanhur / Amarna / Mendes // 42 – not most pyramids
  • Jon: Berenike / Baharya / Dakhla // 36
  • Saarya: Abu / Avaris / Sawu // 31*
  • Ben: Thebes / Edfu / Memphis // 36

* If you count the card he wouldn’t have tossed if he had remembered the rules about duplicate cards.

Like a number of games using a similar mechanic (Evo, Goa, etc…), Amun-Re suffers from an overdose of luck when picking the cards. To solve this problem, we played “draw 2, keep 1”, which worked very well. Even though I still had terrible luck with the cards, I usually felt that I had some options or control over what to keep, and only twice tossed back cards for the money (one other person tossed once, except for the last round).

I kept getting the provinces I needed stolen from me, which means that I have to work on my bidding. Also, the farmer’s didn’t like my provinces, so I invested in pyramids, except that one either side of the river I have competition, Ben on one side and Daniel on the other. Yah.

Daniel had three sets of three at the end. Yitzchak had no chance to build pyramids, so went for bonus cards and temple provinces, which earned him a tie, but then lost to the arbitrary “ties go to the pyramid builder” rule. (Edit from Daniel: For the record, I also had more money and more farmers than Yitzchak. mischievous grin)

Saarya earned 42 gold on the last harvest.

Total play time: 3:20.

Puerto Rico

Rachel 50, Sharon 39, Nadine 36, Elijah 33

I took it very slow teaching Elijah how to play, so they didn’t start until 8:00 pm. Although it took me longer, Elijah remebered better than most people I teach, and played an awesome game, carefully accpeting or rejecting his fellow player’s advice with patience.

Who better to play your first game of PR with than 3 kind women? Well, kind but competitive and sometimes impatient, but pretty good overall, I hear.

Rachel walked away with this one, having Guild Hall and City Hall.

Settlers of Catan

Sharon 10, Rachel 6, Nadine 5, Elijah/Jon 4

I joined this near the end after Elijah needed to leave. By then, Rachel had a port on wheat with 8,8,6, and 9 wheat hexes. I don’t know why she didn’t win (she even monoplied 8 wheat or so). Sharon had a port on wood with 5 and 9 wood rolling a lot, and won the game with Longest Road and Largest Army.

A dry report, but it’s late and time for bed. Til next week.

Jon

Nadine: Easy to explain – Puerto Rico is Rachel’s game and Settlers is Sharon’s.


Nov 03, 2004

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Nadine, Sharon, Daniel, Yitzchak, Elijah, Rachel A

Much political discussion after the elections. A lot of milling back and forth to the computer screen, listening to the Kerry resignation speech (boring), phone calls, and discussions about step-parenting.

Yah.

El Grande – King and Intrigant

Saarya 117, Jon 113, Nadine 91, Sharon 83

Yes, much better after taking out the 70, 50 and 30, cards which send pieces back to the provinces. 70 really didn’t have to come out, but the 50 and 30, which sent piece from the courts back to the provinces were impossible the first time we played, coming out every turn, and making the game too narrow – you always had to play low cards to get your pieces back, and off they would go again.

This time the game was as enjoyable as regular EG, if perhaps a bit too easy to get all your pieces on the board. High scores and almost noone left in the provinces.

The second issue is the rule that the high and low bidders don’t get their special actions but must take the King and Intrigant actions only. That made half of the cards worthless, which is a medium sized problem. By allowing the players to choose between the special action of the King/Intrigant, you end up with the small problem that the king doesn’t move much. Better a small problem than a big one.

Anyhoo, we started off in the four northern provinces. Nadine was first and started out ahead after the first scoring round, but Saarya and Jon caught up fairly quickly, almost tied after the second scoring round. At the end, it was neck and neck, like the elections WHOOPS, scratch that. Saarya scored with his last scoring province.

Cards played, in order:
Nadine: 150, 130, 20, 93, 10, 180, 90, 25, 95
Sharon: 80, 95, 75, 150, 93, 90, 20, 40, 180
Saarya: 20, 140, 160, 100, 40, 95, 10, 93, 130
Jon: 155, 10, 180, 80, 150, 130, 40, 110, 90

Scores after 1st/2nd/3rd scoring rounds:
Nadine: 38/70/91
Sharon: 12/46/83
Saarya: 29/80/117
Jon: 32/79/113

Settlers of Catan

Yitzchak 10, Elijah 7, Daniel 6

Daniel and Elijah are still new to SoC, so still happy to play it all the time. Yitzchak is also game for it most of the time. As usual, a lot of longest road swapping.

Through the Desert

Yitzchak 117, Daniel 95

Elijah went a little earlier this time. I needed something to keep Yitzchak and Daniel occupied until we finished EG, so I brought out and quickly taught Daniel TtD. He seemed highly intrigued. There was a lot of cordoning off, but I don’t know what else happened.

Puerto Rico

Rachel 50 + 6, Jon 50 + 0, Sharon 47

A close game, once again proving the over powered nature of Harbor in 2 and 3 players. Must tone it down, maybe cap it at 2 points per turn, or make it equal Factory’s bonus levels.

Sharon had early Harbor and then Coffee, and eventually Fortress. Rachel had Tobacco, Factory and eventually Guild Hall. Jon had only sugar, indigo and corn, but a bunch of quarries and City Hall and Custom’s House. Jon was just unable to get Residence (he had Hacienda about mid game) and to spite Rachel (with goods on a Warehouse), and Sharon (with at least 18 colonists ready to come in), removed all of his colonists down to the plantations to end the game a round early with 21 colonists on the boat.

Almost had it, too, but lost on a tie.

San Juan

Nadine 41, Yitzchak 32, Daniel 30

Nadine proves why San Juan also needs a little tweaking, winning with all the monuments, Triumphal Arch and City Hall, and Guild Hall in the hand, but no time to build it.

It just doesn’t sit right that number of 6 point buildings = finishing place. Must find a way to make 6 point buildings more accessible. Something like: shuffle them and deal them out before starting.

Nadine: I agree there is too much luck. I had Triumphal Arch and one monument from my original hand, holding on to them the whole game was a challenge. I was lucky to pick City Hall and Guild Hall near the end, though I could only build one. Daniel was in a good position, producing and trading extra, and would have been able to build more big buildings if he had drawn them, though he did build Palace. Yitzchak had City Hall and more purple buildings than we did.


Oct 27, 2004

Happy Birthday, JSGC!

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Rachel A, Nadine, Yitzchak, Sharon, Daniel, Elijah

The Official JSGC is 1 year old. The game group started several years ago when I got my first box of magic cards, and we would get together irregularly to play. At the same time, we had irregular bridge evenings, online and off (my brothers still play a few times a week online), and a Cosmic Encounter evening every month (again, ?)

Somewhere along the line, I wanted to run a D&D game for my kids, and decided to try it out on my brothers and friends. This turned into a regular game evening every two (?) weeks. Then we got 3e D&D and my brother David started a campaign for his kids and ran his campaign for us.

Unfortunately, 3e D&D is really bad, gutting all of the roleplaying, and turning it into ruleplaying and rollplaying. The rules arguments ran high and senseless, and I eventually quit (not too politely, I must admit). David is still running the campaign for his kids and their friends, albeit with rule changes.

About that time we got Settlers of Catan, which took my family by storm, and a year and a half later, Cities and Knights, and Acquire. Eventually I got some of the D&D people coming regularly to play Settlers, and then Puerto Rico. I was already a regular on BGG and the Yahoo PR group. When I dared to invent new buildings for PR and make rule changes to other games, I began to work on my own game designs.

Towards the end of 2003, I wanted to make my game group offical, and try to get more people, so I put an ad in for the local English papers and mailing lists for the Jerusalem Strategy Gaming Group (hard to come up with the perfect name. I got phone calls from people thinking this was a chess group, or a computer game club). The next week, Nadine showed up (and noone else), and we had our first official game club evening playing Acquire (with Saarya, my son). The next week, noone came, although Nadine said she was on call, and I began to fret. The week after that they began coming again. The rest is in the session reports.

I’ve had a great time, we’ve met some great people, and played a lot of great games. Thanks to everyone in the group for their open attitudes, their patience with my new games and variants, and for making it a great group. Here’s to many more evenings and game days.

In honor of the occasion, Sharon brought over a new copy of David and Goliath from her trip abroad, and Sharon and Nadine brought over a handcrafted set of little pieces and dots to use for my railgame. It’s so sweet. And I know it’s not just because they don’t want me to steal the pieces from Puerto Rico while I’m playing the rail game! Thank you.

Puerto Rico

Yitzchak 53, Rachel 52, Jon 51, Nadine 45

Game changes:

  • Hospice: move colonist onto it when you buy it.
  • Large Warehouse: comes with a good (your choice)
  • University: comes with a colonist on it

A close game, as you can see. Seating order: Yitzchak, Nadine, Rachel, Jon

  1. Round 1
    1. Y/Settler. Y/Quarry, N/Tobacco, R/Sugar, J/Corn. R took the sugar I wanted.
    2. N/Builder. N/Sm Market, R/Sugar, J/Sm Market, Y/Sm Indigo
    3. R/Mayor. Rachel now has Sugar running.
    4. J/Prospector
  2. Round 2
    1. N/Settler. N/Quarry, R/Coffee, J/Coffee, Y/Tobacco. R took the Coffee ahead of me, too. Meanwhile, Y and N have indigo and tobacco.
    2. R/Craftsman.
    3. J/Mayor. Fills both corns and Sm Market. Don’t want to trade, or R will have just enough to get coffee roaster.
    4. Y/Captain
  3. Round 3
    1. R/Trader. For the 2 gold.
    2. J/Prospector. For the 2 gold.
    3. Y/Builder. Builds Tobacco. R and I both waiting for Coffee.
    4. N/Mayor
  4. Round 4
    1. J/Builder. Got the roaster, which Rachel can’t afford, yet.
    2. Y/Craftsan. Producing tobacco. But will he trade it?
    3. N/Captain. Y is left with his tobacco, so he will.
    4. R/Settler. Takes a quarry. I take another coffee. I produce 2 corns, two coffees for most of the game.
  5. Round 5
    1. Y/Trader. With gold, to add insult to injury. Noone else has goods.
    2. N/Prospector. 2 gold
    3. R/Mayor
    4. J/Craftsman. Boats are blocked, so I will be able to trade coffee. Despite sitting to the left of R, I trade coffee five times, to her once.
  6. Round 6
    1. N/Builder. Nadine and Yitzchak both pick up Harbor. Time to start blocking boats.
    2. R/Trader. She trades Sugar, I trade Coffee, Y or N trades indigo, and TH empties.
    3. J/Captain
    4. Y/Mayor
  7. Round 7
    1. R/Craftsman. R and I are doing the Harbor owners work for them.
    2. J/Trader. J/Coffee, Y/Tobacco, N/Indigo, R/Sugar
    3. Y/Settler. With 2 gold. J takes trader to earn a lot of gold, but gives almost as much to Y by letting pass gold on other phases.
    4. N/Builder
  8. Round 8
    1. J/Trader
    2. Y/Prospector. For 3 gold.
    3. N/Builder. J builds Guild Hall, R Factory, Y City Hall.
    4. R/Captain
  9. Round 9
    1. Y/Settler. Takes corn, I think.
    2. N/Mayor. Plus 2 gold. Around this time, the colonists start rushing. 7, then 8, then 12, then 7 again. 10 at the end.
    3. R/Craftsman
    4. J/Trader. Trades corn to get 10 GP.
  10. Round 10
    1. N/Trader
    2. R/Captain. We are colluding against the presumed big shippers.
    3. J/Builder. Builds Custom House, R builds Fortress. Customs House ends up being a mistake, as we all end with about 20 shipping VP’s, and Fortress nets R 8 VPs.
    4. Y/Prospector
  11. Round 11
    1. R/Mayor
    2. J/Builder. Hppay to build for Guild Hall, happy to end game asap, happy to let the shippers work for it.
    3. Y/Craftsman
    4. N/Settler. Quarry.
  12. Round 12
    1. J/Captain. Loads Coffee, I think.
    2. Y/Trader
    3. N/Builder. Builds Residence.
    4. R/Mayor
  13. Round 13
    1. Y/Prospector. 3 gold
    2. N/Settler. Quarry.
    3. R/Mayor. Trying to up her Fortress.
    4. J/Builder. Running out of money, and Y has build almost as much.
  14. Round 14
    1. N/Captain
    2. R/Craftsman
    3. J/Trader
    4. Y/Builder. J out of money. Y and N build Wharves. Y ultimately uses his to win the game.
  15. Round 15
    1. R/Captain
    2. J/Builder. Buys Hacienda
    3. Y/Craftsman
    4. N/Mayor. Almost enough to end it, but not quite. Y and N want to ship more, so they don’t end game.
  16. Round 16
    1. J/Captain. Game will end anyway, might as well block what I can.
    2. Y/Builder. Fills up building space.
    3. N/Prospector
    4. R/Mayor. colonists gone.

Yitzchak wins by a hair.

Sharon 49, Nadine 44, Rachel 39.

Later in the evening, the three womenfolk have a game of PR. Apparently, the game ended before the big building were filled. Otherwise, Sharon would have had 51, and Rachel 52.

Settlers of Catan

Saarya 10, Sharon 9, Daniel 8, Elijah 5

All of the above prefer Settlers to PR, and Daniel and Elijah are still new to Settlers. So there you go. A lot of Longest Road swapping, I understand.

Saarya had heavy brick and a brick port, Sharon heavy sheep and sheep port, Daniel heavy wood and wood port (started on the port to block Saarya), and Elijah heavy ore and an ore port.

This game was played during the first PR game, and took longer, strangely enough.

Jon 10, Yitzchak 6, Daniel 6

Another game, this one played during the second PR game, and also took a little longer.

All of us started on one end and ended up with contiguous bands across the island, Daniel on one side with heavy wood and wood and wheat ports. Yitzchak on the other side, running across the island, and me down the middle. They competed for longest road, inching up to 7, then 8, 9 and 10. Yet wise man say: two players compete for longest road, third player win. Hoombah.

After gaining my two cities (on bricks and woods) and two settlements, I played 3 soldiers, and then played 6 roads in one turn to take longest road.

David and Goliath

Sharon 66, Daniel 53, Saarya 36, Elijah 26

Breaking in the new game.

Daniel 56, Saarya 53, Elijah 36, Jon 26, Sharon 14

My hand was high, and therefore bad. Saarya and Daniel stayed neat and clean the whole game. Final scores were a little hazy, but about correct.

San Juan

Yitzchak 41. Jon 39, Nadine 25, Rachel 24

While waiting for the first Settlers game to end, we played SJ. Rachel got no big buildings, despite a lot of Councelling, and neither did Nadine, except for Palace. Kind of frustrating.

Final buildings:

Yitzchak:

  • Indigo
  • Smithy
  • Prefecture
  • Tobacco
  • Quarry
  • Statue
  • Aqueduct
  • Carpenter
  • City Hall
  • Palace
  • Victory Column
  • Guild Hall

Jon:

  • Indigo
  • Prefecture
  • Tobacco
  • Silver
  • Gold Mine (about 2/6)
  • Market Hall
  • Hero
  • Triumphal Arch
  • Guild Hall
  • Statue
  • City Hall

Nadine:

  • Indigo
  • Tobacco
  • Prefecture
  • Tower
  • Chapel ++++
  • Hero
  • Palace
  • Market Hall
  • Silver

Rachel

  • Indigo
  • Sugar
  • Quarry
  • Black Market (used once)
  • Carpenter
  • Trading Post
  • Aqueduct
  • Victory Column
  • Tower
  • Chapel ++
  • Market Stand
  • Library

To celebrate, I baked a cake, and we sang happy birthday. We even took a digital photo. I’ll see if I can get that up at some point.

See you next week!


Oct 20, 2004

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Daniel, Yitzchak, Nadine, Sharon, Rachel A, Elijah

Sharon returned, only to tell us that she is leaving for the U.S. in mid-November, so we must enjoy her while we can. Also, Elijah, who played with us on Sukkot, returned for a game.

Railroads of Catan

Yitzchak $51,900, Saarya $38,300, Elijah(+Daniel) $30,000, Jon $28,500

And I inflicted this on him.

I had streamlined my RR game again, removing the negotiation and events, and adding roll cards, making it closer to Age of Steam. The game gets better each time, but there is still a huge amount of calculating and figuring between all players.

The game is basically:

Round:

  • Bid for roles (roles are: a) $1000 plus go first, b) Get/Move rail for free, c) etc…).
  • Pay maintenance on built material.
  • Buy delivery order. Unbought ones gain value.
  • Build rails and trains, or upgrade.
  • Buy and deliver goods.
  • Repeat until 7 rounds.

The way I had it this time, the delivery orders were undervalued compared to the simple selling of goods back and forth between cities, and it cost too much to run on other people’s tracks. Also, with so much figuring, people often come to a general consensus of what the “right” move is. Also, the game led up to a creshendo before the end, but then didn’t quite finish off spectacularly, since Yitzchak could hold his position shipping goods back and forth while doing nothing else. Need a better finish.

Anyhoo, I though I started off well, but I quickly fell behind. Don’t quite know why. Elijah didn’t build any good twin cities, so he couldn’t produce/sell/reapeat, like the rest of us could. The delivery orders were not that useful, for the most part. Ah well.

Still enjoyable to play, but it took 4.5 hours to finish an entire game. One more thing to work on. OTOH, that is how long most railgames take, so I don’t know if I can do anything about that.

Tigris and Euphrates

Sharon 7, Nadine 6, Daniel 4

Daniel taught Nadine and Sharon how to play T and E, and promptly lost to them. I saw that by the end of the game, he had no leaders on the board. I think he lost a few too many conflicts.

Pente

Jon 5, Daniel 1

After finishing Tigris, and not wanting to play PR, Daniel and I played some sde games of Pente while RR was still going on. He lost five games in a row, but gamely tried one, finally beating me from what looked like a hopeless situation.

Puerto Rico

Game 1: Nadine 46, Rachel 41, Sharon 33

Game 2: Rachel 64, Nadine 60, Sharon 42

Don’t know anything about these games, unfortunately.

We seem to have a contingent of people looking forward to a Die Macher game at some point. So we will aim to try it again sometime soon. Also, a week fom this shabbat we will be playing a game shabbat, either at Nadine’s or my house. If you are in the area, stop by.

Yehuda


Oct 13, 2004

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Daniel, Yitzchak, Nadine

Pente

Jon 2, Daniel 0

Daniel arrived earlier than the others, so I introduced him to Pente. In the first game, I confidently played for a quick triangle and almost lost my shirt as he took over with a straight cross through the middle. Luckily for me, he missed a quad I could form, and when I regained initiative, I placed it down for the win. The second game, I took moe careful control with a triangle, X and I shape to form two triads which could not both be stopped.

San Juan

Daniel 40, Yitzchak 32, Jon 30, Nadine 30

A quick game before the heavier game, I introduced San Juan to both Daniel and Yitzchak, who both ended up with the highest scores. In my case, I couldn’t find a large building other than Palace, despite having up to 15 cards in my hand at one time (Tower, two Silvers, Trading House and Market Stand). Daniel had Chapel, City Hall and Palace, and only two Indigo plants. Yitzchak had the nice Guild Hall and a Hero.

Taj Mahal

Yitzchak 42, Daniel 40, Jon 37, Nadine 36, Saarya 32

Daniel again scored pretty well on his first attempt at the game, but yitzchak eked out the victory. Daniel, Nadine and Yitzchak all had something like 8-9 points in their hand at the end. Daniel did a lot of withdrawing for the bonus cards, and then had a huge hand while the rest of us fought over province 7 or so. He also had huge connections, earning 8 or 9 points at least twice. Nadine and Yitzchak both had nice commodities. I had a lot of bonus cards, and I won a few protraced battles, but couldn’t get enough matching colors afterwards.

Interestingly, Yitzchak did a lot of useless withdrawing but still won.

Cities and Knights of Catan

Unfinished, Jon was a bit ahead, followed by Saarya

I introduced C&K to both Nadine and Daniel, who both nitpicked about it the whole time. Nadine remarked how Goa had borrowed the progression from C&K. It was kind of late, and there are more rules than Settlers, and I think they were tired or afraid of missing their bus, so we ended in the middle. The dice were being unfavorable to Daniel, in any case.

Nadine: I enjoyed the opportunity to try C&K, it seems good if you want a long game or really like Settlers. Taj Mahal is fun and engaging; so far it doesn’t seem like people have won due to strategies.


Oct 03, 2004

Game Day

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Pinchas, Michael, Elijah, Elazar, Ben, David K, Yitzchak, Nadine, Rachel A

An excellent game day on this good day of Sukkot. First I was expecting a contingent of people from Tel Aviv, and then I was expecting them to cancel when I found out that ICON (Sci-fi convention in TA) was happening on the same day. Then they said they were coming anyway, then they said they weren’t because the driver had to go to miluim.

In the end, we had some curious newcomers, a number of curious who said they would come, but didn’t, a number of regulars, including one who said he wasn’t going to come, and one guy from Petach Tikve (Elazar, more below).

Chess

Richard was the first to show up. I played bridge with him in the past, and he knows nothing about the newer games. He wanted to play chess, which I didn’t mind starting with. The problem with chess for me is: little table talk about strategies (I don’t like a lot of table talk, but some basic warnings that a play I am going to make is stupid would be nice) and a boring end-game (with lots of room for careless, uninteresting mistakes such as the above).

First I took back a move, then he took back a move, then I told him to take back a move because I set him up for a check-mate. Then I had him dead-to-rights near the endgame, but I was careless, and I took back my move to then carefully finish him off (instead of a stalemate).

Carcassonne: Hunters and Gatherers

Saarya introduced newcomers Michael and his nine year old son to Carcassonne. Michael’s previous experience is Illuminati, probably many other standard games, and vaguely playing Cosmic Encounter many years before.

Carcassonne seemed to go pretty well. There was one irregularly played piece which Saarya didn’t catch on time, making the game results skewed.

Saarya and Yitzchak also had a game later in the day, when it seemed like there would be time for a quick game, but the game was ended about 2/3 of the way through, with Saarya declared the eventual victor.

Through the Desert

I decided to start Pinchas on TtD, my new hook for new players. I usually use Settlers for multiplayer hooking.

He found it interesting, but hard to grasp how to surround territory. The game was a bit of a walkover for me, ending 105 to 48.

Anagrams

The last quick game before other guests showed up, I introduced Pinchas to Anagrams, which he refused to take seriously. He knows Scrabble pretty well, but is the type who likes to make puns and cutesy words. We ended in the middle; I was doing better, but he did have a good word or two that he had snatched from me.

Settlers of Catan

Jon 10, Yitzchak 9, Pinchas 9

SoC turned out to be the big hook for Pinchas, and eventually for Michael and Elijah, as well (no surprise). Pinchas really liked the many paths to victory, and ended his first game with a big smile.

The first game out, it looked like I was way ahead, 7 to 4 to 4. But I stalled for quite a while, and by the time I finished, Yitzchak had Largest Army and two hidden victory points, and Pinchas had Longest Road and was close to 10.

Yitzchak had really bad luck, rolling 8 over and over which both Pinchas and I benefitted from and he didn’t.

Pinchas 10, Saarya 8, Ben 7, Elazar 6

I then taught SoC again to Elazar. Elazar is the guy from Petach Tikve. He is another who saw my interview on spotlightongames, and wanted to come just to show me a prototype of a game he invented to get my opinion on it (Art of War below). Wow, I have a growing online presence.

SoC is his first Eurogame, and he also really enjoyed it, because the luck factor took the pressure off of winning, and allowed him to just enjoy himself, since no matter how good you play, you can lose to bad luck in SoC.

Pinchas won on his second game.

Elazar 10, Michael 9, Elijah, Pinchas

I then taught it again to Michael and Elijah, who also had a blast, and already asked to buy it.

This game was played by people who I taught that day. This time, Elazar won on his second game, although I don’t know what happened beyond that.

Cosmic Encounter

Ben brought Mayfair CE/MCE with him, which was good news to the CE devotees like Saarya. I don’t know the powers, but Saarya won because of that freakin’ reverse cone (which I want abolished), after Ben allied on offense hoping to go for a double win, forgetting that the cone was reversed. Michael also played, with Elijah on his team.

Another CE game was played later, with Saarya playing Miser/Visionary, Nadine Warpish/Siren, and Ben Obverse/Chronos. Nadine had originally picked Virus but couldn’t legally play it with her other powers.

Saarya took this game as well, which was a long drawn out one, as Nadine was distracted watching our game of Taj Mahal.

Art of War

Elazar’s prototype is called Art of War, a wargame based on certain priciples of the same book. I won’t say much about it, as he was testing it out on us, and he wants to publish it at some point. My immediate comparison was to Lord of the Rings the Confrontation, only more and variable board and troops. Since he never played Eurogames, I was surprised at how Eurogamey it was. It is pretty solid, needs some more rules detail, summary information on the pieces, and a little streamlining, but worth looking for if it ever gets published.

David played him and resigned about halfway through, and then I did the same later in the day.

Illuminati

I didn’t get a chance to play this Steve Jackson tongue-in-cheek card game which Michael brought over, apparently based on the ridiculous book by Robert Anton Wilson. The basic idea is that you each are a unique society (variable player powers) with the choice of the general or unique win condition. Either involve spending money and influence to sway other secret societies to your sphere of inflience.

Elijah, Michael and Yitzchak played until the game drew down to a close and apparently Yitzchak and Michael decided to call it a draw.

Magic the Gathering

David and I hadn’t played in a while, so I decided to take my usual punishment. I win barely one game out of ten with him. This time we each had 75 cards to choose a deck. I ended up with just the wrong sort of cards and couldn’t build a useful deck. I had Red/Blue, splash of white. David had Black with some Red. I lost each game 0/12.

We have always been playing with a variant mulligan rule I created (you can discard out of the game a land or non-land up to turn five to get the other type of card, once). David K has been abusing this rule too much, however, so I have decided, as of now, that we are moving to the official tournament mulligan rule (which was created a year after mine, which is why we haven’t used it up until now). It is: mulligan as often as you like, choosing one less card in your starting hand each time.

Tigris and Euphrates

Ben 10, Saarya 8, Jon 6

Another fantastic game of T&E, always gripping. Ben’s first game, with the usual stream of rules questions. He somehow pulled just the right tiles to defeat or win almost every conflict. 4 blue tiles, no problem. 3 green the very next round, followed by 4 red right afterwards? Sure.

I only managed to break his positions up once, and only by sacrificing my own position to do it.

Puerto Rico

Yitzchak 59, Rachel A 45, Nadine 44, David K 43

Rachel came up to play her favorite game. Yitzchak managed to do a nice bit of trouncing for once. He apparently had 4 corn and 3 tobacco, Harbor and Wharf. With 4 corn, Wharf becomes obligatory. Meanwhile, the other players were all competing for trading space to buy the big buildings, and David K was crafting to pump his Factory, which ended up helping Yitzchak even more.

Puerto Rico + expansions

Nadine 50, Rachel A 49, David K, Yitzchak

In this game they used some of my more interesting expansion buildings:

  • Large General Workhouse 8/3: two circles, each count as any production type you want each Craftsman phase. Rachel last played this with me, alternating production between coffee, tobacco and sugar, depending on what she needed to sell or ship that round.
  • Exchange House 5/2: exchange 1 good with the trading house at the end of the trader phase. I last used this to trade expensive goods, and then take them back, either to trade again, or to ship.
  • Bazaar 2/1: trade gp, vp or good for extra colonist / gp, vp or colonist for extra good / vp, colonist, good for extra gp. A difficult building to use, but can be flexible.
  • Goldmine 8/3: after taking two gold mines instead of plantations, can produce 1 gold per round, which sells for 6 and ships for 3 vp/barrel (shipped together with another good)

Apparently, Yitzchak had Library and Bazaar, but no big buildings, Rachel had 2 big buildings and Large General Workhouse (producing tobacco and coffee, or whatever was available otherwise), Nadine had Library and 1 big building, and Ben had 2 big buildings. Exchange House wasn’t bought.

Bridge

Several hands of bridge were played (Ben, Nadine, Pinchas, David K).

Taj Mahal

David K 70, Yitzchak 42, Jon 37

David K played and won his first game. I made terrible bluffs in the last two rounds, but I was still nowhere near catching up to him. I don’t really know where he got all of what he got, but he got it. He had both long strings of connected buildings, and a good supply of commodities – bought late, but better late than never.

Whew. Lots of snacks, food and drink, a hot sukkah, and then a chilly evening. A good time had by all, from 9:30 to 23:30, and apologies to David K’s wife Yael for stealing him for most of the day.


Sep 22, 2004

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Daniel, Nadine, Yitzchak, Rachel A

Welcome Daniel to the gaming club. Daniel has experience with Munchkin, Tigris and Euphrates, Diplomacy and other games, and says he doesn’t like Puerto Rico, although he’s only played it twice.

San Juan

Nadine 28, Jon 26 + 4, Rachel 26 + 1

While waiting for the others, Nadine, Rachel A and Jon has a game of San Juan. Nadine says she thinks it’s boring, but Jon still likes it very much.

Jon decided to give Crane a shot, having said how much he thinks it sucks without ever really trying it. It sucks. Yes, it’s true you can build each round, but, if nothing else, you kill yourself from the loss of bonus points from the big buildings at the end of the game. It does combine with the Triumphal Arch, I guess. Suffice to say Rachel built no buildings but still tied Jon’s score. Nadine did the simple play of production/Guild Hall to an easy victory.

Princes of Florence

Daniel 60, Nadine 54, Yitzchak 46 + 7, Jon 46 + 1, Saarya 34*

Saarya got a low score since we didn’t let him retract a bid after the person after him was hesitating. This may have been unfair, as other players took back moves, albeit with less information from the succeding players. If Saarya had been able to take back the bid, he may have achieved more than 20 points in the swing.

Daniel, first time playing, bowled his way into first place by picking the profession cards 1, 2 and 3 on his opening, and then buying and recruiting 4, 5 and 6. 2 buildings, 3 freedoms, 3 landscapes and 6 full sets of works, and an 8 point prestige card to boot. Saarya actually passed 1 action, hoping the work he played would be more lucrative the next round, and then Nadine passed two actions at once hoping for the same result. A first for me, and made for a very interesting game. Jon had his game planned on turn 4 with the assumption he was about to acquire Religion, but Yitzchak was ahead of him and stole the last one, which meant that Jon couldn’t play his last profession card. Saarya and Jon also couldn’t pull a useful prestige card to save their lives. Yitzchak had 3 builders and ran out of profession cards after round 6.

Tigris and Euphrates

Jon 8/9/12/18, Saarya 7/8/9/14, Daniel 5/5/5/8

Saarya started off with 5 red tiles, which is a great pull for defending your early kingdom. A series of well fought battles pulled him ahead, but he finally lost a big red battle to Jon (who pulled out 4 red tiles to match his). Daniel was attacked early on and never really gained momentum. From feast to famine for him, after his big win in PoF, and from famine to feast for Jon, as on the last play of the game he leaped forward 2 points, pulling a treasure and a black to go from 6 to 8 and then end the game. Saarya could have ended the game on his turn, but thought he needed his action.

Puerto Rico

Rachel 65 (39S + 26B), Nadine 58 (37S + 21B), Yitzchak 52 (19S + 33B)

I didn’t follow the game, but Yitzchak had Guild Hall, Factory and a full complement of production, including a Tobacco monopoly, Rachel had City Hall and a Coffee monopoly (must have had Harbor, as well, to rack up 39 shipping points), and Nadine had 5 corns, Wharf and Custom’s House and not much else.

No game next week or the week after on Wed night, but Game Day on the Sunday in between. See you all.


Sep 08, 2004

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

El Grande: King and Intrigant

Nadine 77, Yitzchak 69, Ben 67, Saarya 61, Jon 58

I have played many games outside of the gaming group over the last week or two, including a game of El Grande at Nadine’s house over shabbat. This inspired me to finally break out the El Grande expansion set that we bought. I decided to try the “simpler” and more well-regarded of the two expansions first: King and Intrigant.

In K&I, you remove the power (bidding) cards and action cards from the original set. Instead, each player has an identical set of 31 cards from which he chooses 13 to play with during the game. They are numbered (between 10 and 180), and each has the number of caballeros you get from the provinces to your court (generally, the lower the number, the more you get) and a special action (generally the lower the number, the better the action).

During play, each player plays one card. Highest card goes first, and can place five caballeros on the board and either do his action or move the king. Next highest gets to place four caballeros and do his action, etc… down to last place who can place only one caballero and can either do his action or do “the Intrigant” action, which is to move one foreign caballero or all of his own from one region to any other regions. You no longer have the option of doing or not doing the action unless it specifically says “May” in the card.

The game is now more strategic the basic game, since you now know what cards will be coming up next, at least your own. In that sense it is a better game. On the other hand, the agonizing was even longer than the first game, where there was some agonzing over the power cards, but not too much, some over the action, but not too much, and most over where to place the caballeros. Now we have lots of agonizing over the card and lots over the caballeros.

But the basic feature of this game versus the original is that it is much more painful. Wheras in the first game the really painful cards would come up only sometimes, and only twice per game at most, in this game they come up every turn. This makes for a much more aggressive and nasty game experience. The worst of the lot are the two cards that send caballeros back from the court to the provinces. For almost the entire game, noone had anything in their court, which meant a lot of low numbers needed to replenish the court, if you could manage to play them and if you had included them in your opening 13 cards.

I’m not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. The game is now more heart-wrentching and hand-wringing, which can be good, but this is almost to the point of painful.

Certainly my experience, since I sank to last almost right away and stayed there for most of the game.

Ben started out with “other players return all caballeros from court to provinces”. You’ll see a lot of those. Even worse was “all players return 3 caballeros from courts or regions to provinces” if you have none in the courts, you take them from the board. Since Ben wiped out all of mine from the courts, Nadine finished by wiping out the only three I had on the board from play. Saarya and I had very little on the board most of the game. Nadine did a lot of double scoring by scoring the castillo and then scoring again where ever the caballeros in the castillo moved to.

For the record, here are the power cards played:

Ben Jon Saarya Yitzchak Nadine
30 90 50 150 100
180 10 80 20 50
50 180 95 140 63
80 70 20 75 90
60 80 130 10 20
150 20 93 180 95
90 150 70 30 170
20 30 63 170 10
95 130 40 66 180

Scores at the end of each round:

Ben Jon Saarya Yitzchak Nadine
0 0 0 10 4
0 0 0 10 4
14 13 18 17 19
14 13 18 17 19
26 17 20 25 19
46 36 44 48 53
48 45 48 48 53
48 45 48 48 53
67 58 61 69 77

Nadine: I selected my cards based on high numbers and receiving caballeros, figuring the actions weren’t important because they were optional. Well, when we started playing, we discovered that most actions weren’t optional, which made it a bit more challenging. I didn’t think I’d do well because I soon ran out of good actions, but I forgot that everyone else would have similar problems.

Bidding position is a factor over which you have little control except when you play super low yourself. I was able to go first on the last scoring round because Yitzchak played low on the 7th round, most likely to get caballeros, and on the 8th I still had my 10, because Yitzchak had played his 10 earlier. I had gone first 7th round even though it meant using the king with only 3 caballeros. One reason was that I didn’t want to do the action on the card, so wanted to use it when I could take the king. I was sure my strong home region from round 6 (with mobile high scoreboard) wouldn’t last to the final scoring, but the 7th round first player chose not to move the king, mostly because he figured I would just be able to move it back due to my going first during the last round. But leaving it there prevented Saarya from using his Veto on my last round king move, because it is fortunately optional.

I was also lucky in the 6th round to end up first position in a region that Saarya secretly doubled. I earlier had lost three points by missing a move that other people saw, and even hinted at, but for some reason didn’t tell me in time. I was actually in last place at the end of round 5, Jon had a higher score than listed. And I never got to play my Score the Region of Your Choice card. The king didn’t move as often in this game, because if the first player does their alternative action, no one else can take the king, and it was harder to place caballeros to be in a position to benefit from moving the king.

This version is much more difficult to play, but fun and engaging, though more frustrating as Jon says.

Puerto Rico + expansions

Rachel 49 +2, Nadine 49, Jon 40

This makes the third game in a row where Rachel and Nadine have tied for first place, with the win going on the tiebreaker. We played with several buildings from my new set, and the resulting random mix was a whole lot of very powerful buildings with most of the buildings geared toward heavy building. For example we have small market (+1 trade), large market (+2), super market (+3), and small business (also +1, plus store one good). Plus Church (earn vp’s for building). Plus large business (Both of Builder’s and Captain’s privileges).

For some reason, even though both Rachel and I had Coffee, and Rachel was after me, she still managed to outtrade me. She also took both small market and small business before I reallized that you could do that, by which time it was too late. I had nice production, but only 1 storage space (small business), and Nadine got Wharf.

The building list:

  • Small market (1/1)
  • Small Business (2/1) (small market + store one good)
  • Hacienda (2/1)
  • Small Factory (3/1) (+0/+1/+1/+2/+2)
  • Trade School (4/2) (Pay one extra for building and gain a colonist on it)
  • Church (5/2) (+0/+1/+1/+2 VPs for buying a building from column 1/2/3/4)
  • Large market (5/2)
  • Beachfront (6/2) (take Dock instead of plantation, counts as wharf for one barrel of any type)
  • Super market (7/3)
  • Large business (8/3) (pay 1 less per building, +1 VP if you ship at least once)
  • Library (8/3) (double privelege)
  • Wharf (9/3)
  • President’s House (10/4) (+2 each for: most red VP’s, most shipping VP’s, most colonists, most goods, most GPs, most plantations. +1 for ties)
  • Governor’s House (10/6) (+4 if you have colonists on San Juan)
  • Distillery (10/5) (+2/sugar plantation (max +8))
  • Custom House (10/4)
  • City Hall (10/4)

Nadine: I actually was in the worse position because I had no big buildings, but I accidentally managed to end the game in time to stop 3 of 4 from being manned, otherwise Jon would have won with his 2.

Jon: Nope. Even with my two big buildings manned, I still wouldn’t have won. Rachel would have. I did forget to mention that the game ended abruptly by Nadine taking Captain and running us out of VP’s before anyone noticed, which is why we were caught unaware.


Sep 01, 2004

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Yitzchak, Rachel A, Yona (Nadine’s son)

Welcome back Rachel A (my wife) and Nadine from their summer vacations. It was a long, slow August.

Puerto Rico

Rachel 48 + 2 items, Nadine 48 + 1 item, Jon 47, Yitzchak 47, Yona 44

And we start off with the game of choice, Puerto Rico, followed by the other game we’ve been playing all summer, Goa.

As usual, changes to the game:

  • Move colonist onto Hospice when you buy it
  • Small Wharf instead of Large Warehouse
  • University comes with a colonist

Seating order: Nadine, Yitzchak, Jon, Rachel A, Yona.

General Guide: Nadine and Yona both got Harbor and Wharf and fed each other Craftsman and Captain. Nadine did a little better, also having Small Warehouse. Neither bought a large building, but each had over 30 shipping VPs. Yitzchak got Guild Hall and all the production buildings, two quarries and 18 shipping VPs. Jon got three bid buildings, but only two manned, and one wasn’t too successful (and 15 shipping VPs). Rachel got one large building, Small Warehouse, good trading and 25 shipping VPs.

  • Round 1:
    • N: Settler. N:Quarry, Yi :Coffee, J:Corn, R:Tobacco, Yo :Sugar
    • Yi: Mayor. Already a rogue start, giving J and R Sm markets, and allowing N to fill her quarry before buying.
    • J: Builder
    • R: Prospector. R takes Prospector 4 times in the first 6 rounds.
    • Yo: Prospector

    – After one round, J, R and N still have 4 GP, Yo has a sm sugar mill but doesn’t produce until 4th round.

  • Round 2:
    • Yi: Settler. Yi: Quarry, J:Tobacco (ahead of Rachel), R:Corn, Yo: Corn, N:Corn
    • J: Trader
    • R: Craftsman
    • Yo: Captain
    • N: Mayor
  • Round 3:
    • J: Builder. J:Tobacco, R:Tobacco, the rest pass
    • R: Prospector
    • Yo: Prospector
    • N:Settler. N:Corn, Yi: Sugar, J:Sugar, R:Tobacco, Yo: Indigo
    • Yi: Craftsman, allowing …
  • Round 4:
    • R: Trader. R trades corn and N trades indigo
    • Yo: Captain
    • N: Mayor
    • Yi: Settler. Yi: Quarry, J:Indigo, R:Coffee (to break away from my Tobacco threat, Yo: Indigo, N:Sugar
    • J: Craftsman. J now can trade Tobacco, as he has corn to protect his shipment, and the third ship must be filled firstby Yo’s sugar.
  • Round 5:
    • Yo: Builder. Yona takes a Harbor! Nadine gets one next round, they will also both have Wharves, but neither will have big buildings by the end of the game. Yitzchak acquires his coffee roaster.
    • N: Prospector
    • Yi: Prospector
    • J: Trader. J trades Tobacco (still has one left), Yo trades sugar.
    • R: Mayor (6 colonists)
  • Round 6:
    • N: Builder. Jon takes Factory, producing 4 goods. Nadine Harbor, Rachel Sm Warehouse.
    • Yi: Captain. To prevent Jon from trading a second Tobacco.
    • J: Settler. J:Quarry, R:Tobacco, Yo: Indigo, N:Sugar, Yi: Coffee
    • R: Prospector
    • Yo: Craftsman.
  • Round 7:
    • Yi: Trader. Yi trades Coffee, J trades Tobacco, R trades Corn, Yo trades Sugar.
    • J: Mayor
    • R: Prospector
    • Yo: Captain
    • N: Builder, takes Sm Warehouse
  • Round 8:
    • J: Mayor
    • R: Craftsman
    • Yo: Captain
    • N: Trader
    • Yi: Prospector
  • Round 9:
    • R: Trader with a bonus, trading coffee.
    • Yo: Craftsman
    • N: Captain. Two crafting shipping Harbor junkies.
    • Yi: Builder. Yi takes Guild Hall, J takes Customs House to ensure that the shippers don’t get it. Thinks he can get 4 to 5 points from it anyway.
    • J: Settler, another quarry, hoping to get three big buildings.
  • Round 10:
    • Yo: Mayor
    • N: Prospector
    • Yi: Prospector
    • J: Settler, and hoping to get Residence
    • R: Captain, shipping coffee to help lock the boats. Of course, the shippers both get Wharves.
  • Round 11:
    • N: Builder
    • Yi: Trader
    • J: Settler
    • R: Craftsman
    • Yo: Mayor
  • Round 12:
    • Yi: Prospector, hoping to get a second large building.
    • J: Builder. J takes City Hall, R takes Residence
    • R: Trader, eyeing the last big building also.
    • Yo: Prospector
    • N: Captain
  • Round 13:
    • J: Trader. With another craft, will have enough for third large building. Unfortunately, Jon fills a tenth building space first ensuring that even if he gets it he won’t be able to fill it.
    • R: Builder. Yi has a full set of production buildings, Guild Hall, and nothing else.
    • Yo: Mayor
    • N: Settler
    • Yi: Craftsman, under the theory that Yi would do it anyway.
  • Round 14:
    • R: Captain. Again starting a Coffee boat, but shippers both have Wharves.
    • Yo: Prospector
    • N: Builder. Both Yi and R give up on getting the last big building. J gets it in the last round, but can’t fill it, and would have been better off buying two buildings from the second column for 6 points (City Hall), instead of Fortress for 5 points.
    • Yi: Prospector
    • J: Mayor (colonists almost out). Jon should have waited here, as he may have been able to buy Fortress and convinced R to Mayor to fill it, since her building also wasn’t filled.
  • Round 15:
    • Yo: Craftsman
    • N: Captain (end of vp’s)
    • Yi: Trader
    • J: Builder. Jon gets Fortress (filled building spaces)
    • R: Settler, for Residence.

And a very close game ending score.

Goa

Nadine 44, Yitzchak 38, Jon 33

Despite starting off with double nutmeg and succeeding with my first colony, I pulled useless expedition cards one after another (advance with money when I had none, trade spices for money when I had none, etc…)

I just sat in bemusement and watched the game fall to pieces as Nadine and Yitzchak pulled ships, colonists and track advancement, which I just couldn’t get ahold of to save my life. Furthermore, I ended up being the odd guy out as they trade both the flag and the cash for it back and forth all game.

I flatly refuse to play another game of Goa until I have fixed it. Puerto Rico doesn’t need all of this card flipping luck and, while I really like the basic mechanics of the auction and the tracks, the game is simply unbearable at this point.

Nadine: I agree. Also, trying to calculate which spices you need one or two rounds ahead of time is challenging but neither interesting nor fun. And, watching other players figure and plan their moves is boring because it has almost no effect on anyone else.


Aug 24, 2004

Participants: Jon, Yitzchak

(The system crashed, blew away my first attempt, so here we go again.)

A light night again, as the August vacation period winds down. We should be getting more players again next week. Yitzchak has been the stalwart attendee.

Goa

Jon 41, Yitzchak 40

Yitzchak requested Goa, so as to try to “do better than last time”, which he did. Both of us now attuned to the expedition card track, the game came down to a) auctioning, b) luck founding colonies, c) luck with expedition cards, d) general play.

a) Was still mine, but only by a small margin. I got a complete set of tiles in one round, Yitzchak did slightly better later. One mistake he made was that he thought the ducats tile was one per round instead of 4 per round, so he let me have it cheap.

b) Was also, mine, although I did fail once, and he didn’t try often. By making failure equal 2 colonists instead of one, there is never a double failure, which is a huge boost to the game. On the oother hand, colonists lose a bit of value, and you have more at the end – you also had some left over in the original rules. I would like to do something about that, as it bothers me.

c) Was Yitzchak’s by far. I got “progress using cash” in a very cash light game (this card should be changed for two player games), and “flip extra card for a colony” when I already had 4 colonies. Meanwhile, Yitzchak was “last round I harvested, let’s buy a card – oh look, give me two ships.” again and again, getting just what he needed.

d) Was still impossible to say. No one has done an analysis yet of how a move affects the entire game play. It seems pretty balanced, and actually, not a very important part of the game, but can’t really make up my mind about this.

On the last round, Yitzchak put down the flag such that the other two items would be spices. He paid everything to get the flag and action card, giving me platation 1 for 0 ducats, and plantation 2 for 1 ducat. I was left with 18 ducats.

I had the “progress using cash” card, which I could finally use, but if I did, I would be left with 0 ducats to his 1, swinging 3 points from me to him for most ducats, so I couldn’t even use it. Instead I harvested, progressed once and took expedition cards. Naturally I got the 5 ducat bonus card.

Puerto Rico

Jon 56, Yitzchak 53

A short game than the other meaty two player games, the only changes we made were: Hospice (move colonists onto it), University comes with colonist, Small Wharf instead of Large Warehouse.

In a two player game, we have discovered that an early Harbour is basically game, and that’s what Yitzchak did. The rest of my game was trying to deal with that, and I cam up with some pretty nifty tricks to do it, if I may say so myself.

For instance, Yitzchak was producing only corn and indigo, and I managed to lock him out completely from trading, by trading those myself. This gave him extra dubloons on the other roles, however. Still, I stopped him from getting big buildings earlier.

Second, I locked the ships, either with only 1 empty space each, or with my goods. He got a wharf, but again missed out on a big building to do so.

Lastly, his one big building he got, but couldn’t man before the end of the game, as I ended the game by placing goods that he could ship, forcing the victory points to run out. And I did some pretty good shipping myself. With all that, I still only won by 3 points, which just goes to show you that Harbor needs to be changed in two player.


Aug 18, 2004

Participants: Jon, Shlomo, Yitzchak, Ben, David K

8 1/2

I got this slight card game from Haim Shafir himself, the designer; he asked me to give it a try, as he is proud of it. Haim has invented over 40 games, including Taki, a variation of Uno (he says, a variation of crazy eights, of which Uno is also a variation), which is an immensely popular and successful game in Israel, the way Uno is in America.

Being a strategy gamer, and not a Taki player, I admit I wasn’t expecting much. I just wanted to see if it compared favourably to Taki and Uno, those sorts of games.

The game is basically: put three cards in your hand, three face down on the table, three face up on top of those, the rest next to you. Play cards higher than the card in the pool from your hands and draw cards. If you can’t play higher, you eat the pool. Some cards have special meanings: 1/2 is played on anything, 5 means next card has to be lower, zero resets, etc… When you are out of hand and deck cards, you play your face up cards, and then your face down cards, blindly.

The group reaction was … how to put this tactfully … not very receptive. We didn’t understand what the point of playing blindly was, and why, unlike Taki, where the rules were basically straightforward, so many rules seemed so arbitrary and not printed on the cards, in any case. And there were a few rules problems, and some falling behind with a bad hand problems. It could be I misunderstood the rules.

I kind of liked the 1/2 card gimmick and the game will probably find its audience in the general population. It’s not my cup of tea.

Puerto Rico

Ben 48 (+7), Jon 48 (+2), Shlomo 47, Yitzchak 45, David K 37

David K very much wanted to try to break my version of Forest House (2/1/Settler Take a forest, pay 1 less for buildings for each forest after the first). His plan was to Settle every round until he had 11 forests, and then buy 5 big buildings, or something like that.

Other changed buildings we played with:

  • Surveyor’s House: 2/1/Settler take any plantation you want from the supply, instead of what’s up. This proved to be useless during the game, as all the coffees and corns came out very quickly.
  • Mine: 4/2/Builder pay 1 less for buildings. Redundant in a game with Forest House, but still a nice building
  • Small Wharf
  • Large General Production Building: 8/3/Craftsman (2 circles) each circle counts as any desired production (matched with a plantation). Not bought early enough to be of use, and David K kept stealing the only available coffee and turning it into a forest, anyhow.
  • Beurocracy: 10/7/End Game: At the end of any round, you may trade/build if trader/builder was taken this round and you didn’t already. This is a great building (normally) for 5 player, as it means you can trade after the trading house empties and then buy a building you couldn’t afford earlier. David K got it, but never made use of it.

I was first, Shlomo (only his 2nd or 3rd game) second, Yitzchak 3rd, Ben 4th, David K 5th.

I got early quarry, corns and Harbor, and shipped early and often, leaving myself enough money to get one big building, but not the sugar mill I needed.

Shlomo got nothing but shipping, producing 3 sugars, 3 corns and an indigo early on, and then 3 tobacco soon followed. Shipped more than me, but less building points as he missed out on a big building.

Yitzchak got the first of several tobaccos and a nice factory going, and he got custom’s house, to take it away from me.

Ben got a factory and tobacco, too. I never figure out how he manages to beat me, but he did it again, taking city hall (for a whole 6 point bonus) and the other forest house (up to +2 benefit).

David K took forest house on the first round, and settled every round for 9 rounds. He got 8 forests, after which there weren’t any plantations left to be had. He got only two big buildings, since we all had enough for one anyway. He had no production, and although he had the only coffee working it was too late to use it effectively.

Goa

Ended early, voting Jon the winner (David K, Yitzchak, Ben, Jon)

A very hungry crew ate our very late dinner, after the hamburger place cancelled our order after an hour (they ran out of bread), and the shnitzel place took another 45 minutes.

We taught Ben his first game, and he hates auction games, since he’s not very good at them. Somehow, I pulled out a good lead in round 1. I was first flag auctioner, and I went on to win two of the tiles in the first round.

Our bidding is lower than the accepted standards, and when it is lower in general, you have to adjust your thinking, or you end up down versus other players. Nevertheless, for some reason it always seemed to be up to me to make the sole bid on an item, and I usually managed to hit just the painful spot where it is better to give it to me than to take it.

We all progressed as far as possible in expedition cards; I hit level 4 first, David K level 5 first. I was also at level 4 in another track and had the 4 point tile. It was getting late, so they threw it in and declared me the winner. Good auctioning goes a long way.

We played with two rule changes:

  • You get two colonists if you fail the colonize attempt. Works great, as it eliminates the critical double fail on the first turn, yet doesn’t devaluate colonists too much.
  • ;Money track progression for 4 player game goes 4/6/10/16/24 . This could be a good change (suggested by Alex), but still didn’t tempt anyone to take the track, at least, not by round 6.

See you next week on Tuesday.


Aug 04, 2004

Participants: Jon, Yitzchak

A slow month at the JSGC, as you can see. Everyone is on vacation. In other news, I had a chat with Haim Shafir, designer of Taki and other games. He knows all the top designers personally, and was very nice to talk to about our club, game designs, etc…

Goa

Jon 50, Yitzchak 39

I’ve been scoring higher and higher since following the online advice about the expedition card track, but a lot of it is still luck. I ended with a set of 3 and a set of 2. The last game I played I had 6 cards with only one match. When you add it all up, the difference is really only 4 points (5 unmatched vs full house), so I still would have won.

This is despite: failing TWO attempts at my first colony (yes indeed, I pulled 2/1 and then 1/1) and pulling the least helpful cards imaginable (pay ships and no spices when I had a huge surplus of spices and no ships, that sort of thing). The thing is, while they may not be useful right away, you just plan around them a little longer and they will end up being useful later, usually. I saved my spices and then traded them for cash, instead of taking a cash action. That sort of thing.

The real reason I won was that Yitzchak lost the auctions, not quite bidding when he should have and leaving himself only 2 GP going into one auction. I had played a lot more, so it was a learning experience. I also discovered that the valuation used by Jim and Alex (BGG) just doesn’t work unless all players agree to it. We had so little money, that items went for 3 or 4 throughout the game. It was often a best move to buy your own tiles. Two player games are like that. With so little money in the game, it was easy to corner your opponent into Faustian deals with a little planning.

Puerto Rico

Jon 68, Yitzchak 51

Another first for Yitzchak, first time playing 2 player PR. I opened with Settler/quarry and my third building was Harbor. Yitzchak again didn’t produce enough, took too many quarries and took a Hospice. He had one more big building, but I shipped 38 to his 18.

Next time we hope for more people to join us!


Jul 29, 2004

Participants: Jon, David K, Nadine

Goa

Jon 44, David K 40, Nadine 29

It is getting harder to find players during the summer as everyone goes abroad. We couldn’t get a game up on Wed, and just barely eked out a game tonight when David K said he could come after all, if late. Nadine was on standby and came by to make a third.

I’ve been involved in several online discussions trying to figure out if there really is a game strategy behind Goa, or if it all a smokescreen of lots of actions and busy work but everyone goes forward by about the same amount from turn to turn. Jim convinced me that there is more to the game.

It is probably the most subtle game there is. Unlike PoF where a winning auction can be a dramatic victory or mistake, in Goa a dramatic victory means you won a third of an action or so more than your opps, and you have to keep parlaying that each round carefully.

That would be fine, except the luck factor, card drawing and colony building throws the game out by a factor of an action or two either way. Nadine kept trying to build colonies and kept failing, even when the odds were clearly in her favour. No amount of subtle play is going to overcome that. If the balance was reversed, I think the game would be more solid. I just can’t deal with winning/losing based on five cards, all different symbols.

My game this time was the expedition track, as per Jim’s suggestion of opening with 2 reds and a black, one colony, two levels in expeditions, followed by two expedition cards. Drawn cards were: pay money to advance (useless), trade spices for money (useless). Sigh.

Despite this, the track eventually made good, and I managed to get all colonies, advancing only one in the colonist track (and only to get the free action anyway), and ignoring the cash track (got it from good auctioning and the red cash tile) and the harvest track (got spices from cards, plantations and colonies). Finished my expedition track, shipping track and colonies, and some mismatched bonuses. I also did pretty well in the bidding.

David got severely hampered by lack of production types, missing black and white, and eventually he just tried for colonies until he got the wild one. He ended with 3 tracks finished (shipping, money, expedition on the last round), but not much else. David’s first game, so he bid a little wildly on some tiles, but this is his forte, so he did pretty well anyway.

Nadine messed up some bidding by buying her own tiles twice, and never getting the flag. Still the number of times she just missed getting colonies was ridiculous.

While interesting, the game still doesn’t quite get me in the gut. The progression is very slow, and there is no game ending oomph like in PR, PoF and other games. Still like playing it, though.

David Here: I actually enjoyed Goa a lot. After the first game I was gung ho about ordering one for myself. Over the weekend though I gave the game a lot of thought and I believe it is “broken”. Now, since all players face the same choices, it is not truly broken, but I do believe that there is one strategy that will wipe the floor against other competing strategies. In other words, as opposed to Jon’s first take on the game that there are *no* effective strategies, I believe that there is one, fairly unique, strategy. Unfortunately, if I am correct the game becomes quite boring…

In any case, I am dying to try my strategy out next time.

Ooops, just reread a part of the rules. My strategy isn’t so hot after all. Need to give the whole thing some more thought. Still, that’s all for the better.


Jul 21, 2004

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

Many of our regulars are away on summer vacation, and Nadine is going soon, too. I have placed a new advertisement on Janglo. If you know others who want to play, send ’em over.

Taj Mahal

Ben 52, Nadine 45, Jon 44, Yitzchak 43

I had a hankering to play this again, as I really enjoyed it and last time we got four rules wrong:

  • That the bonus cards can be played once per turn until someone else takes it from you, and not once and then discarded.
  • That someone who withdraws from the bidding without bidding anything gains a bonus card
  • That the “+1” tile is +1 card, not +1 VP
  • That the cards in your hand count as bonus points (one color + white) at the end of the game.

The first three of these are a great improvement to the game. The last I didn’t really like; there is a large element of luck involved, and it presents an uninteresting choice at the end of the game where you may earn the same number of points either playing or not playing your cards.

In any case, I took a large first lead, earning the purple bonus card (+1 elephant) early on and acquiring great commodities. Yitzchak was not far behind. Ben and Nadine were in last and resigned to stay that way. Ben got the yellow bonus card and began inching up with 2 points a turn. He played it 6 or 7 times by game end.

Then I stalled on rounds six and seven, hoping to regroup for the remaining rounds, and Ben passed me during this process. Two of the subsequent rounds I just played the wrong cards, and having been an early leader, Yitzchak aimed to take me out instead of Ben, resulting in him and me both falling behind, while Ben picked up steam. I had one leap ahead, but not enough as Ben passed us and ended with an 8 point bonus from his hand points.

Puerto Rico

Nadine 53 (+9), Rachel 53 (+7), Ben 51, Jon 50, Yitzchak 42

Rachel was supposed to be working, but she insisted she needed a break and both she and Yitzchak want to play Puerto Rico. None of us regretted it, as this was as good a game as any we had played. It just never gets boring, even with five players and so little control.

Building changes:

  • Hospice: when bought, you may move a colonist onto it
  • Trading House instead of Office
  • Scavenger Yard instead of Large Warehouse. You may collect any one players total discards (you may choose your own) minus all of their corn and one other barrel.
  • University: comes with a colonist on it

Player order:

  1. Jon
  2. Nadine
  3. Yitzchak
  4. Rachel
  5. Ben

Rounds –

  1. Round 1
    • Jon/Settler. Jon takes quarry, Nadine takes corn, Yitzchak takes coffee, Rachel takes sugar, Ben takes indigo
    • Nadine/Builder. Nadine takes Sm market, Yitzchak takes Sm market, Rachel takes Sm sugar, Ben takes Sm indigo, Jon passes
    • Yitzchak/Prospector. This was a bad move as it let Rachel get an early sugar production going.
    • Rachel/Mayor. Rachel mans her sugar/sugar, Ben and Nadine man corn
    • Ben/Prospector.
  2. Round 2
    • Nadine/Settler. Nadine takes a quarry, Yitchak takes ?, Rachel takes a Tobacco, Ben takes a Corn, Jon takes an Indigo. Rachel is to maintain a deathhold monopoly on Tobacco for the entire game.
    • Yitzchak/Trader. For the coin. Yitzchak will have a huge cash shortage for the entore game, despite several quarries. He never produces more than a corn and an indigo or so.
    • Rachel/Craftsman. Of course, for the sugar.
    • Ben/Captain. Of course, for the gold and vp’s.
    • Jon/Builder. Jon builds a Large indigo (for 1 GP), Nadine builds Sm indigo, Yitzchak builsing Hospice and moves his useless colonist onto it, Rachel passes, Ben builds ?
  3. Round 3
    • Yitzchak/Prospector. +1 GP. Most prospectors taken had +1 GP on them this game.
    • Rachel/Prospector. +1 GP
    • Ben/Mayor. Ben is now producing two indigo’s, as is Jon.
    • Jon/Settler. Jon takes the only coffee available. Jon will be the only one producing coffee for quite a while, which is almost as good for his as Rachel’s Tobacco is for her, but she locks up a boat for Tobacco for half the game. Ben and Nadine take Sugars, Yitzchak gets a second Coffee (and doesn’t produce any until the last round of the game), Rachel takes a second Tobacco.
    • Nadine/Builder. Nadine builds Sm sugar, Yitzchak builds Sm indigo, Rachel builds Tobacco (and the scary music starts), Ben builds Sm sugar?, Jon takes a free Sm indigo (waiting for Coffee)
  4. Round 4
    • Rachel/Mayor. Rachel now has working tobacco, sugar and corns. Ben and Nadine also have sugar. Nadine and Yitzchak have Small markets.
    • Ben/Builder. Ben builds an early Factory. Jon passes. Don’t remember the rest.
    • Jon/Trader. For the GP, and anticipating some trading coming up.
    • Nadine/Craftsman. Nadine has sugar, indigo and corn. Rachel has tobacco, sugar and corn. Ben has indigo and corn. Jon had indigo. Yitzchak has an indigo.
    • Yitzchak/Captain. Knowinf Ben will do it if he doesn’t, and he gets the GP. Rachel saves her tobacco.
  5. Round 5
    • Ben/Settler. Quarry for Ben, Jon inidigo. Rachel took another tobacco, and no one else did.
    • Jon/Prospector.
    • Nadine/Prospector.
    • Yitzchak/Mayor.
    • Rachel/Trader. Trades a tobacco, when noone else has anything. Couldn’t have been captained, as boats had corn, indigo and sugar on them.
  6. Round 6
    • Jon/Builder. Jon has a fistful of cash and a quarry, and he builds a Coffee. Others have coffee plantations but can’t get to Coffee for a while. Nadine builds Harbor! and proceeds to smackdown on shipping for the rest of the game. Rachel builds Small warehouse, and at this point I realize that although Scavanger Yard can be a great building, it is useless when all of your opps have warehouses or wharves, which is what happens this game. They remain unbought.
    • Nadine/Mayor. To man her Harbor.
    • Yitzchak/Settler. Finally uses the Hospice to get a manned quarry.
    • Rachel/Craftsman.
    • Ben/Captain. Same situation Yitzchak was in earlier; better he take it than Nadine take it next phase. Jon is left with a coffee.
  7. Round 7
    • Nadine/Prospector
    • Yitzchak/Prospector. Still trying to get money
    • Rachel/Captain. Starting her infernal tobacco boat, saved with her Sm warehouse.
    • Ben/Trader. To prevent Jon from getting two extra GP’s. He trades his coffee.
    • Jon/Mayor. Jon is now producing two indigos and two coffees Yitzchak spends the rest of the game with many colonists on San Juan.
  8. Round 8
    • Yitzchak/Builder. Builds a Harbor. Jon builds a Trading House so he can trade coffee at will. Nadine builds a Sm warehouse.
    • Rachel/Craftsman. No craftsman fear here, except she is still getting less points than Nadine during shipping.
    • Ben/Trader. He trades sugar, Jon trades indigo.
    • Jon/Settler. Takes another quarry. Still noone takes tabacco.
    • Nadine/Mayor. Mans several goods and Sm warehouse.
  9. Round 9
    • Rachel/Trader. She trades sugar (to prevent Nadine from trading it), Ben trades indigo, I trade Coffee, Nadine trades corn. Yitzchak is locked out.
    • Ben/Builder. I don’t remember, but Jon takes Wharf I believe. Nadine buys Lg Sugar.
    • Jon/Prospector.
    • Nadine/Captain. Lots of VP’s
    • Yitzchak/Prospector.
  10. Round 10
    • Ben/Craftsman
    • Jon/Mayor. With Wharf and Trading House, Jon no longer cares about shipping space or trading space. Now he is working on big buildings.
    • Nadine/Captain.
    • Yiztchak/Settler. Still hoping that manned quarries will do him some good.
    • Rachel/Trader or Builder. Can’t remember.
  11. Round 11
    • Jon/Trader. Coffee. Jon is now the only one who can reach a big building.
    • Nadine/Builder. Nadine buys something, and Jon acquires Guild Hall.
    • Yitzchak/Prospector. Still trying to get a big building by game end.
    • Rachel/Captain. With leftovers from Sm warehouse. The boats are all sugar, indigo and corn, which suits Nadine just fine.
    • Ben/Mayor.
  12. Round 12
    • Nadine/Prospector. Also wants a big building by game end, and trying to make up for her last build.
    • Yitzchak/Settler. Hoping a third manned quarry will do the trick.
    • Rachel/Craftsman.
    • Ben/Trader. Still locking out Yitzchak. Jon trades Coffee one more time.
    • Jon/Builder. Jon buys Fortess, much to Yitzchak’s chagrin. Ben gets Residence.
  13. Round 13
    • Yitzchak/Trader. Trades an inidgo and fills up the House.
    • Rachel/Craftsman.
    • Ben/Settler. A point for residence. Someone besides Rachel takes their first tobacco plantation.
    • Jon/Mayor. Points for Fortress.
    • Nadine/Captain
  14. Round 14
    • Rachel/Captain. Leftovers from Sm warehouse
    • Ben/Prospector.
    • Jon/Builder. Not much to do, so buys tobacco.
    • Nadine/Craftsman.
    • Yitzchak/Trader. Finally has enough for a big building. So does Rachel. Nadine will be one shy.
  15. Round 15
    • Ben/Settler. For the point.
    • Jon/Mayor. For the point.
    • Nadine/Captain.
    • Yitzchak/Builder. He takes City Hall, Rachel takes Custom’s House.
    • Rachel/Prospector
  16. Round 16
    • Jon/Captain. Finishes up shipping points, and prevents any major shipping later in the round. Might have done better building or mayoring.
    • Nadine/Craftsman. A key play, gives her more goods than anyone else, and winning the tie at the end of the game.
    • Yitzchak/Builder. To pump City Hall. Jon doesn’t have enough to buy Lg sugar.
    • Rachel/Prospector. I think.
    • Ben/Settler. Filling in his last Residence point.

And Nadine, with no big buildings, has 38 shipping points (to Jon’s 13, who has 2 big buildings), and beats Rachel on the tie.

Comment from Nadine: It was very close, any of the top 4 could have won depending on how things went at the very end. I didn’t know it was possible to do well without a big building — I didn’t have enough money because certain people went out of their way to block me from trading sugar the whole game, when they had Tobacco and Coffee monopolies!

Bridge

Ben/Rachel 3240, Jon/Nadine 100

A few hands of bridge to round off the evening, found Ben and Rachel with hand after hand slamdunking Jon and Nadine.

    Second rubber: B/R: 4 spades (450), 4 hearts (650). J/N – set B/R once, for (100)

  • Third rubber, first half: B/R: 3 hearts making 4 (170), set J/N once (50), 4 spades (450)

Proverbial towel is then thrown in.

See you next week.


Jul 14, 2004

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

Tonight we only got to one game, Goa, which we tried starting at about 6:35, spent about 20 minute rereading the rules I thought I had understood, and actually started around 7:00. We finished at about 10:30, at which point we ended the evening.

SUMMARY

Goa is enjoyable, in my opinion a cross between Princes of Florence and Cities and Knights of Catan. It ranks below Puerto Rico and Tigris and Euphates, but above PoF, etc…

Like PoF, there are a number of defined rounds, with items up for auction, followed by each player getting a certain number of actions. In Goa, there are 8 rounds, which are all indistiguishable, except that there are 25 items up for auction in the first 4 rounds, followed by 25 different ones in the next 4 rounds.

ACTIONS

There are 6 types of actions:

  • Take ships (free)
  • Take spices (free) (there are five types)
  • Take money (free)
  • Take cards (free)
  • Take colonies (pay colonists)
  • Move up one progression track (pay spices and ships)

Each player has in front of them five progession tracks. Each player starts off on the first space of the track and can progress up to the fifth and last space.

If you are on the first space of the ships track, you get 1 ship during the “Take ships” action. If you are on the second space, 2 ships, etc… The second track determines how many spices you get if you “Take spices” (if you have space to produce them), the third track how much money for “Take money”.

The fourth track determines how many cards for “Take cards”, as well as your hand limit. Cards do things like give you free ships, free money, or free colonists, or reduce your payment for progression on the tracks. If you don’t play them, they are worth victory points. Cards also have a “colonist” count on them which is irrelevent in your hand.

The fifth track determines how many colonists to add to your attempt to get a colony during “Take colony”. For colonies, there are 4 types available, and you may acquire 1 of each type. Each one comes with 1 or 2 spaces for producing multiple types of spices, and comes prefilled with spices to boot. Each costs some number of colonists. When you “Take colony”, you add up the number of colonists on your colony track, the number of colonists flipped over in two cards from the deck, and the number of colonists you toss from your hand. If it equals the price, you got your colony. Otherwise you acquire a colonist as a consolation prize, which makes the action easier next time.

You can “Move up one progression track” by paying combinations of ships and spices. Different spices are needed for each track progression, and 1 ship is needed for each spice. If you are the first to reach 4th or 5th space in a particular track (sound familiar?), you gain a free expedition cards. Once all of your markers are out of their first, second, … spaces, you gain free action cards.

Free action card are usuable once.

AUCTIONS

The are numerous tiles available in a 5×5 grid, each of which does something different. The most common ones are plantations that gives you 1, 2 or 3 spaces for producing a single type of spice. The others give you free ships, free colonists, free victory points, free cards, free spices, or free actions during the round. A few other are more complicated, but that’s about it. The auction is the only time you need money.

Which tiles are available is done in a gimmicky way of the person holding the “I’m first” tile placing it down with his marker on it next to a tile, followed by other places putting there markers down one by one on tiles adjacent to the last played marker.

There will be 5 auctions: one for the “I’m first” tile, which comes with a free action token, and one for each player (so less if you’re playing with less players). You can win none, one or all of them. Bidding is once around, with the marker holder placing the first and last bid. If you win the bid, you pay the marker owner. If you’re the marker owner, you pay the bank.

WINNING

Victory points are:

  • 0,1,3,6,10 points for each marker on the progression track in space number 1,2,3,4,5.
  • 0,1,3,6,10 points for having 0,1,2,3,4 colonies
  • Bonus points for cards in your hand. Each card has a symbol in the corner, and you get 0,1,3,6,10,… points for having 0,1,2,3,4,… cards of that symbol.
  • A few bonus points from tiles
  • 3 bonus points for most gold

The gamebook is not up to the standards of other game manuals I have read. Information about the development track is not all under “Development track”, but scattered around in random places. It was halfway through the game before I found the rule about free action cards on the development track. The symbol is on the board, but it is inscrutable as to why, until you know why. There were other problems like this.

There are numerous rule ambiguities, such as the misuse of the words “immediately”, when you can use your free items and other abilities from the tiles, etc… etc… Some manual writer or rules designer needs a slap on the wrist. And BTW, for the life of me, I can’t figure out why this isn’t a five player game.

Like PoF, you need to deal with what you get from the auction, and plan a game strategy around it. Like C&K, progression gives you more vps, better production and more bonus cards. If you like these games, you will like Goa. If you didn’t like C&K you might still like Goa, because there’s less luck, less falling behind for the whole game, and less screwing your opp. If you didn’t like PoF, you might still like Goa, because there’s less serenity and more choices, and the auction is more involving.

Anyway, we started off our game with me starting on the spice track, Yizchak on the money track, Rachel (who had to leave for a half hour and was replaced by Saarya) on the colony building track and Nadine also on the colonist track, but somehow not building them until late game. Yitzchak proved the value of money once again, by using his money to win several of the auction tiles, each of which is worth, when you think about it, about 1-3 free actions. I seemed to have money problems which kept me behind a bit.

Rachel/Saarya then progressed in balance to end at spaces, 3,3,3,4,4 and a complete set of colonies. Yitzchak, Nadine and I all had 5th level in one track. In the end, it was a tie game of Rachel/Saarya and Yitzchak, with Rachel winning the tie by having 2 more gold. Perversely enough, I ended with the most money. I blew away a few actions trying to get matching expedition cards, and could’t draw a third card with the same symbol to save my life.

Final scores: Rachel/Saarya 33 (9 gold), Yitzchak 33 (7 gold), Jon 27, Nadine 27.

See you next week.


Jul 07, 2004

Participants: Jon, David K, Nadine, Rachel A, Yitzchak, Saarya

Through the Desert

David K 67, Jon 65

David K showed up a little early, so we started off with one of the new games. As often happens, I lost the first game I taught a new player; actually I lost every game tonight, all of which I taught. C’est la vie.

As I had suspected, enclosing territory comes into play more in a two or three player game than in the five player game. Still the game is vastly different from Go, in that a) you can’t drop your piece anywhere on the board, and b) the game has a short and controlled end. David started off with what looked like a huge area of control on one side of the board, but at the end, all of my little places added up to his big one. Still, he managed to lead in three of the five colors, which game him the 10 point bonus he needed to win the game.

San Juan

David K 38, Jon 33

I really like this game, and I suspect I like it more than anyone else here. Most of the players in our game group seem to feel the need to note that it has more luck than Puerto Rico and that it is not “as good” as Puerto Rico, and that it is not as deep a game as Puerto Rico. None of this bothers me. San Juan is a great game despite the fact that it is not “as good” as Puerto Rico, because it fills a different need. The way a good hamburger fills a different need from a chocolate cookie. I wouldn’t want a hamburger for a snack, and I wouln’t want a cookie for a meal. If nothing else, San Juan fills that great space when two people are waiting for a game to finish.

I also think that there is a lot less luck than there is made out to be. Yes, you will always draw different hands, and you can never count on drawing one particular card that you want, but it is not so common to draw only bad cards, or only cards you can’t play.

Bad luck would be getting:

  • only duplicates of what you have
  • cards too expensive to build, one after another
  • a fistful of only the bad cards, which are:
    • Indigo, Sugar and Tobacco. Sugar is twice as expensive as Indigo, for 1.4 times the value in gold, and no bonus in VPs. Tobacco is a little better, in that it gives you a bonus VP, but it can never give you 3 gold, Coffee is much better here, and Silver, while not much better than Coffee, is at least worth another VP. REVISION 12/07/2004: I believe I have underestimated Tobacco and overestimated Coffee. See my analysis on the Geek for more info …
    • Archive. I just can’t see this ever really being worth it, as any given hand is useful for building one building and maybe saving one card that you want. The situation where this matters would be very rare. And I hate wasting space on my board for rarely useful 1 VP buildings. In general, buildings that don’t give you a bonus in gold or VP’s are not as useful as those that do.
    • Poor House. While potentially useful, there are better cards in this class, and I hope not to count on having no cards in my hand this often, if I can help it.
    • Black Market. Is on the borderline. It definitely seems worthwhile, and is the most likely to be so, but I have to count on having poor production buildings to begin with to find this useful. It shines when it can save a building phase for you. REVISION 12/07/2004: Also probably underestimated. Have to try this again.
    • Crane. When you think about it, aside from wasting the building phase it took to get out this one point building, all this does is turn all of your big buildings into small buildings. The only conceivable use for it would be when you already have 11 buildings and have time enough to improve your buildings before the game ends. Woo hoo. REVISION 12/07/2004: Lots of people seem to think that this is a good buy, and their explanations always follow: it lets you build every round, it lets you build buildings without ending the game, it lets you get nice buildings for cheap over other buildings you don’t want, etc… Sorry, I don’t buy a word of it. I challenge anyone to show me a step by step building log through a complete game of San Juan where this building was the right choice.
    • Triumphal Arch. Also on the border. Think of it as a 6 cost building worth 2 VP, that gives you 2 points for each monument you build, up to a maximum of 3 monument. This hardly compares with Guild Hall or City Hall. Again, on the edge, and I wouldn’t throw it out if I had already built mounments, but doesn’t seem worthwhile as a strategy if it can at all be avoided. REVISION 12/07/2004: Note that I never said that I wouldn’t build it. It’s a Bad Card because it is simply a weaker version of City Hall. For those of you who say that 3 monuments + Triumphal Arch is worth 20 points, my answer is yes, but 3 monuments + City Hall is worth more than 20 points. It is just a bad design. See alternates I suggested on the Geek.

The best cards:

  • Trading Post
  • Well
  • Market Stand
  • Aqueduct
  • Prefecture. The best, as it gives a direct bonus GP.
  • Market Hall
  • Library. Turns every phase into a bonus VP. Does take a round or two to recover from building it.
  • Guild Hall / City Hall. One or both necessary for victory.
  • REVISION 12/07/2004: Add the gold producing “building phase” buildings, such as Quarry, Smithy, Carpenter, etc…

In our game, I built an early Gold Mine, and flipped, flipped, flipped … 8 times. Didn’t win once. David K brought out an early Library, and I saw immediately that unless I did the same, that was going to be game. Luckily I had one also, but mine cost me more in terms of initiative. David had many early 2 and 3 point buildings where I had 1 point buildings and Library. I did slowly work my way up and even passed him, but in the end he dropped a City Hall to make 12 buildings and I couldn’t build anything.

Now stop here, all you game purists. One of the reasons that San Juan is not as deep a game as Puerto Rico is that there is only building, no shipping, and there is no competition for resources, such as colonists, trading space or shipping space. But why?

It seems so trivial to me to remove the Councellor phase, which doesn’t really do much, and add the Captain phase.

Captain: place one of your goods under your production building for a VP. Captain may place two of his goods. Only one good of each type can be shipped each round. Which means that as captain, I place my Indigo and Tobacco under my buildings for two VP’s, and you have a choice of shipping your Coffee or trading it later. Makes the Sugar Mill a much better investment, and we can then get rid of two cards, the very weak Archive and the very Strong Prefecture, and replace them with some new buildings:

  • Hold (1,1): ship a duplicate of a good already shipped this turn (including your own)
  • Harbor (3,2): Gain a card from the deck when you ship at least 1 good

and easy enough to add corresponding buildings like trading post, etc… for shipping. One could also test the Trading phase to exclude other from trading anything already traded this round (perhaps so long as bonus trades only come after each player has traded at least once). REVISION 12/07/2004: Discussion continued on the Geek.

Puerto Rico + expansions

Yitzchak 60, Rachel 52, Nadine 51, Jon 47, David K 33

David won everything else he played tonight, but he got creamed here. Yitzchak, in his first game with expansions managed to pull a Ben, playing in a way which gave everybody else bonuses (he let Rachel, Nadine and David K get great trades), yet still managing to pull off a victory, getting two big buildings and reasonable shipping points.

I was sitting to Yitzchak’s right, so I never saw any of these benefits, but Nadine and David to my right both managed to get Tobacco and Coffee going before I could; if I had known that would happen, I would have skipped both and gone for Large Market. As it was, it was too late for me to recoup my investments. I think I traded one sugar the whole game. I did manage to get the most shipping points and one big building, but it wasn’t near enough.

David K crafted with Library a few times and didn’t manage to get a single bonus good out of it; he produced 3 types of goods, and those were exactly the goods that weren’t available by the time it came back to him.

Tigris and Euphrates

David K 9, Jon 6, Nadine/Saarya 5, Yitzchak 4

We had actually borrowed this game from Yaron more than a year ago, before our becoming a club. I remember losing a lot, and that David K beat me once 6/6/6/7 to 6/6/6/6 . Tonight was our first play with the new purchase.

I thought I could explain the game as simply as Through the Desert, but, while the play is almost as simple, the rules are more complex, and the strategy is a hundred fold more complex. Through the Desert may have many agonizing decisions, but the implications are not that hard to see. Here, the implications continuously perplex, and I had to explain the same rules again and again. I had the same problem; I didn’t need the rules explained again, but I made moves without realizing the full implications before it was too late.

I had no idea how I was doing near the end of the game. I had 4 points, and for all I knew others had 2 or 8. I didn’t know. I figured if I got to 7 or 8 I would be ok. Two notable events: Yitzchak built a monument. I warned him that monuments attract conflicts, but he decided to try it to see what would happen. He got points for it the round he put it down, and for no rounds thereafter. The second event was my joining the two huge middle kingdoms toward the end of the game. Aside from not fully seeing the implications, it still would have been successful except that David K pulled out 3 red tiles to tie me, giving him 4 points in red and 3 points in green, the two colors he was shy in. I ended up +1 point all around, but he ended up +2 or 3 all around, which firmly gave him the lead.

Last time around we played this game, the feeling was that the group didn’t really understand it. This time, after many other Eurogames, the group really did like it, and I think we will be playing it again, and hopefully often.

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