January to June 2005


Jun 29, 2005

Participants: Jon, David K, Saarya, Nadine, Ben

Smaller night. Still fun. Before posting this I took an hour to respond to an IP discussion on Spielfrieks, so now at 1:22 am, this is likely to be a little shorter than usual.

My game prototype

Game 1: Saarya+, Jon, David

Game 2: David+, Saarya, Jon

David and Saarya both wanted to play again after the first game. We still don’t know what the right strategy is, but we still suspect that there is one. The first game was close. The second one David won handily.

For Sale

Saarya 60, Jon 57, Nadine 55, David 51

Nadine and David’s first play, mine and Saarya’s second. Nadine was underwhelmed, complaining that there was no real control. I am also slightly underwhelmed, but I would play it. It just doesn’t seem to have much substance.

Louis XIV

Saarya 54, Nadine/Jon 49, Ben 47

Nadine and Saarya were begging to play this again, yet halfway through, after David and I had finished our Magic game, and Rachel wanted to play Puerto Rico, Nadine offered to leave and let me take over. I think that was because she was losing.

I was in pretty bad shape when I sat in at third round, but I made a dramatic comeback during the fourth round auctions to take second place. From what I saw, it seemed pretty nice. Again, like Goa, finely balanced to the point where you wonder if any one strategy is better than any other.

Magic: the Gathering

David: 2 games, Jon: 1 game

David usually beats me. I took the first game because he mad an error.

San Juan

David 32, Nadine 19

They originally set up PR to play with Rachel, but she got called away for an important phone call, so they played this. I only recorded the buildings.

David: Indigo, Sugar, Library, Market Stand, Smithy, Silver, Palace, Quarry, Carpenter, Chapel+++++, Statue, Tobacco

Nadine: Indigo, Tobacco, Prefecture, Trading Post, Victory Column, Triumphal Arch, Market Stand, Well, Aqueduct, Gold Mine

Cosmic Encounter

Ben, Jon, Saarya, David won, Nadine lost

We played More Cosmic Encounter by Mayfair, double hidden powers, no reverse cones, no moons or lucre. Powers:

Jon: Berserker/Magnet
David: Warpish/Prophet
Saarya: Will/Vampire
Nadine: Doppleganger/Siren
Ben: Symbiote/Grief

Poor Nadine. We went for a quadruple win, all of us with four bases. Ben’s second attack was against Nadine, who was Siren, so if she had won, it would have been a single victory for her. It was close (20 to about 29). The game only took 8 turns because of the frustrating Siren.


Jun 22, 2005

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Tal, Daniel, Elijah, Michael, Gili, Ben, Zeke, Rachel A, Nadine, Yitzchak

A full and hopping night, with three games going for most of it. A surprise returning guest: Daniel had a night off from yeshiva and hopes to come again over the summer. Everyone keeps asking me if we are gaming over the summer; tragically yes, since I am very far from being able to go on vacation, still.

Gili also showed up early, which gave us two light game openers to start with.

My game prototype

Elijah+, Daniel, Zeke, Nadine

I set this one up as the first people walked in, and after four had arrived, I stepped out to let them play while I pulled out For Sale. Elijah won this one, apparently fairly handily.

For Sale

Gili 74, Jon 63, Michael 61, Saarya 57

A game known for its stark simplicity. The game consists of money, house cards valued 1 to 30, and checks (cards) valued 0 to 15. In the first part of the game, the houses are flipped over, and you bid a standard auction for the houses. Each player, as they withdraw from the auction, takes the lowest house and half of his money back. The last person to withdraw takes the remaining (highest) house but no money.

When all of the houses are taken, you bid on checks. Checks are flipped over, and you blind bid with your houses for the checks. Highest house takes highest check, etc.

There is nothing special to say about the game system. Everything that usually applies to auctions applies to this game. If you don’t like auctions, you won’t like it. Truthfully, the game is pretty quick and feels even quicker. I liked it, but it didn’t give me the same type of satisfying feeling that Geschenkt did for a similarly quick game.

Saarya quickly found out the limitations of winning the bidding, as he ran out of money by the end of the third (out of seven) rounds of bidding. In the second round, I thought I played cleverly enough, taking reasonable size checks for medium card. Somehow Gili managed to take better ones and ended up winning, by a pretty fair margin.

Puerto Rico

Rachel 54, Gili 52, Michael 43, Zeke 41

A respectable showing from Gili and Zeke playing their first games, and Michael, who has only played a few times. Rachel had the most shipping points, while Gili’s Guild Hall gave her the most building points.

Princes of Florence

Yitzchak 54, Jon 50, Ben 49, Tal 45, Elijah 42

A close game. A first win after numerous attempts for Yitzchak. The last several games, Yitzchak looked like he was going to win only to lose to some cheap bonus for me at the end of the 7th round, such as best work or a prestige card, that let me beat him by one point. This time, the one prestige card I bought on the 7th round would have done it again, but of the five cards I picked, all were completely useless for me. That gave Yitzchak the final game.

Yitzchak’s early lead was the result of Ben not noticing that choosing his auction item during the third round let Yitzchak take a Recruiter for 200, which was an unholy steal. We were all at fault for not noticing it and warning him, but what can you do? I got a cheap Recruiter the next round because nobody else was in a position to realize its potential anymore.

In round 4, Yitzchak took all of his money in points for a work, and ended up having to move back a few spaces during the game to make up for it. In round 5, I got the last Recruiter which was worth eight points to me, at least as much as any risky prestige card would have been.

Jon Yitzchak Elijah Ben Tal
Round 1 Auction Jester 1200 Recruiter 800 Builder 900 Lake 400 Forest 200
Round 1 Actions Travel / Profession Travel / Profession Religion / Profession Religion / Profession Opinion / Profession
Round 2 Auction Lake 200 Jester 1000 Builder 1000 Recruiter 800 Park 200
Round 2 Actions Theater / Poet (1600/0) (BW) University / Thelogian (1400/0) Studio / Sculptor (900/2) Bonus / Library Workshop / Bonus
Round 3 Auction Jester 1000 Recruiter 200! Forest 400 Park 200 Builder 800
Round 3 Actions Religion / Bonus Lab / Physicist (500/5) (BW) Opinion / Bonus Cartographer (1500/0) (BW) / Lab Religion / Bell Maker (800/3)
Round 4 Auction Recruiter 400! Forest 400 Prestige 500 Jester 800 Builder 600
Round 4 Actions Workshop / Painter (1500/0) Bonus / Physician (0/7) [-2/+200] University / Philosopher (1400/0) Botanist (1100/4) (BW) / University Library / Goldsmith(+) (1200/3)
Round 5 Auction Recruiter 800 Jester 700 Prestige 400 Builder 200 Lake 200
Round 5 Actions Bonus / Cartographer(+) (100/9) [-1/+100] Opinion / Philosopher (1200/4) (BW) Tower / Bonus Bonus / Mathematician (700/5) Opera / Bonus
Round 6 Auction Forest 200 Prestige 700 Builder 600 [-2/+200] Jester 700 Park 200
Round 6 Actions Bonus / Bell Maker(+) (0/11) [-2/+200] Opera / Choreographer (800/8) (BW) Chapel / Workshop Opinion / Alchemist (700/6) Bonus / Jurist(+) (200/8)
Round 7 Auction Prestige 900 Forest 500 Jester 200 [-2/+200] Lake 200 Park 200
Round 7 Actions Dramatist (0/9) / Watch Maker(+) (0/13) Bonus / Alchemist (100/10) Astronomer(+) (0/11) / Organ Maker(+) (0/9) Bonus / Cartographer(+)(+) (100/13) (BW) Bonus / Composer(+)(+) (0/13)
Prestige Bonus 0 4 6 0 0
Final Score 50 54 42 49 45

Louis XIV

Daniel 55 (+12 for tie), Saarya 55 (+10 for tie), Nadine 48

When we got too big for the two games we were going to play (PoF and PR), Saarya took one player from each game and suggested this new game. Now usually I introduce all new games into the club, unless the game is brought over by someone who has been playing it for a long time. This was a cold learning experience for all three of them, none of whom had looked at the rules yet.

They decided to read through the rules while stepping through a game round with open hands. Daniel’s loud vocal explanations, as well as Saarya’s and Nadine’s questions carried across the room for about an hour. As they went on, the voices became more and more excited. They really seemed to like what they were playing.

They restarted after the practice round and played the rest of the evening. Wow. A huge hit. Saarya told me that the game is an absolute 10. I heard “What a great game!” and “Love it!” repeated over and over. Also, “Like San Juan, but better.” That one seemed a little odd, since the game looks nothing like San Juan, but they explained that after “building” the missions, the missions gave them “abilities” like the buildings in San Juan. I haven’t seen that one on the net, yet. You heard it here first, folks.

Obviously, I can’t wait to try it myself. Next game night, if things work out.

Cribbage

Gili 65, Michael 59

A first for our club, I believe. Michael and Gili wanted something quick after the PR game and before they skedaddled, so, finding my daughter’s new generic game box lying around, they played a half game of Cribbage, which Gili won.

San Juan

Yitzchak 39, Jon 36, Ben 33

First game for Ben. After our PoF game, we had a little time left over for our own game. I tried a strange strategy of building a bunch of Indigo plants and hoping for a Black Market and/or Guild Hall. The strategy didn’t work; I built a round earlier than the others, but then they just built again the next round, and better buildings, too. And I never got my Black Market.

I also got Prefecture, but Yitzchak also did on the same round, and Ben soon after. Meanwhile, both of them got Library, and I couldn’t compete. Yitzchak ended with both Guild Hall and City Hall, while I had Chapel+4 and Guild Hall, and Ben had City Hall. Tossing cards under the Chapel prevented me from building Palace, I think.

Buildings:

Yitzchak: Indigo, Tobacco, Smithy, Market Hall, Prefecture, Library, Silver, Quarry, City Hall, Silver, Guild Hall, Silver.

Ben: Indigo, Tobacco, Tower, Well, Aqueduct, Prefecture, LIbrary, Market Hall, Tobacco, City Hall, Victory Column, Statue.

Jon: Indigo, Coffee, Aqueduct, Indigo, Prefecture, Silver, Indigo, Chapel++++, Statue, Guild Hall, Coffee.

See you next week.


Jun 18, 2005

Participants: Jon, Chris Brooks, Erich Litch, Michael, Elijah, Nadine

Today was a very special JSGC gathering played on shabbat afternoon. Chris Brooks, and his co-worker Erich Litch, came to Israel on business and completely managed to avoid game night (on Wed night) by arriving Thursday morning and being scheduled to leave on Tuesday night.

So I invited them to come for shabbat afternoon games and dinner, which they gracefully accepted. I also let the group know about their visit; to my pleasant surprise, three of them showed up, turning the visit into a mini-club event. So that’s what I’ll call it – a special JSGC session.

Chris and Erich are two fine and overwhelmingly generous people. They were wonderful to host; we spent a nice afternoon/evening going for a short walk, talking about this and that. Chris was kind enough to bring me three new games as gifts: Louis XIV, For Sale, and Sticheln.

Erich is a game newbie. It is a wonder that with a co-worker like Chris he had never played any of these games before. I showed them my little game collection as we tried to decide on a first game. We almost decided on Settlers when I asked if I could show them my prototype which had just yesterday been made homeless.

My Game Prototype

Jon+, Chris, Erich

We played one hand. Erich and Chris both said they liked it, which made me happy. One of the mechanisms reminded Chris of Modern Art, which I haven’t played, yet. Actually, it was slightly based on Goa, whose auctions have been compared to Modern Art, so there you go. I won, but Erich was close behind.

Michael and Elijah then showed up. Since we now had 5 players, we scuttled Settlers in favor of El Grande.

El Grande

Chris 107, Erich 99, Jon 80-something, Michael, Elijah

I couldn’t keep score because it was shabbat. This was both Michael and Erich’s first time, and apparently Chris doesn’t get to play it much in his group, so he was happy to play. It is a great game, albeit a bit long, and easy for beginners to play.

I explained the rules quickly, and remembered most of them. Elijah started us off with a middle bid, which we all followed, with Michael going first.

Michael had some difficulty spreading out in the first half of the game. It also didn’t help that, even after my little speech that it is better to move ahead than to hinder others, I canceled his scoring during the “Everyone picks a region to score” card, resulting in both us falling behind. At the first scoring round, people were still pretty concentrated on the board.

Chris and Erich were ahead, with Elijah at least ten points behind, and Michael and I behind him. I got my big break when I was able to pick up all of my caballeros from one region and distribute them around into several other regions, including being the sole contender in two of the three four point regions, and first place in the other. Elijah then got the card in round six which sent all of our caballeros back to the provinces, which was a pain, but didn’t really slow us as much as we thought it would.

By the second scoring round, Chris, Erich, and I were all within 4 points of each other, with me in front. Michael and Elijah were trailing. Chris and Eric were fighting mightily over two provinces.

Things progressed until the last round. Chris got in an early Castillo scoring. Then the “Score the first place in every region” flipped up. That was to be my killer, as I didn’t have a high enough bidding card to take it, but Michael did. He took the card, took over the only region I was still first in, and scored, giving him 16 points, Erich 19 points, and Chris 13 points, while I gained nothing. That was the end for me. I still gained slightly more points than they did during final scoring, but not enough to catch up.

We then broke for dinner, and Michael and Elijah left while Rachel and Nadine showed up.

Puerto Rico

Jon 59, Nadine 55, Rachel 49?, Chris

After dinner, we figured we had about 45 minutes, since Chris and Erich needed to leave at 8:30. Rachel wanted to play Puerto Rico, of course. Five player PR would have been too long, not to mention that Erich had not played before, but he was willing to watch one. We gave him a three way running explanation as the game was set up and play commenced, which I’m sure served to thoroughly confuse him.

Nadine, Rachel, and I are all very experienced and tight players; as Nadine said, this is one of the benefits of having very little money – you play the same games again and again. Chris had only played about twenty times, and didn’t fare too well.

Nadine and I were third and fourth positions. Nadine took the traditional Factory/Harbor/Guild Hall route, with a Tobacco monopoly for much of the game. I took early coffee, the other harbor, small warehouse, and lots of corn; I was able to trade coffee a number of times, and also racked up some early VP’s with my corns. I knew I was doing pretty well, and ended up with two big buildings and 29 shipping points.

Both of us took early small indigo plants expecting to be able to produce indigo at some points, but no indigo plantations showed up for the first two thirds of the game.

Rachel had early corn, indigo, and sugar, and also got Factory, but she suffered from lack of a trade good for much of the game. Chris took early Hacienda and Hospice, which is initially slow; by midgame he had three indigos and three tobaccos going, as well as three quarries. Luck and timing was against him, however, and when he finally got the Residence he wanted, the game was over before he could man it.

The best part about the evening was the politeness of the guests, both of whom were a joy to be with, both in and out of the game. I look forward to the next time they come back.

Yehuda


Jun 15, 2005

Participants: Jon, Zeke, David K, Michael, Elijah, Nadine, Gili, Saarya

Saarya was indisposed for most of the night, and only filled in for Zeke at the end of a game when Zeke had to go. Michael, Elijah’s father made a rare occurence.

My game prototype

Zeke+, David, Jon

As a light opener, I showed David my game prototype. David was not really interested in seeing it, thinking that it was just a kid’s game. After playing it, I think he liked it. Not as in “Puerto Rico like”, of course, but for a quick game, it is pretty solid (say, “Geschenkt like”). In any case, Zeke took the game.

Dvonn

Michael+, Elijah

These two showed up while we were close to the end of our game, so they played this quickie. This is Michael’s type of game, I gather, as I don’t recall him ever losing it.

Starfarers of Catan

Elijah 15, Michael 11, Nadine 11

Nadine was going to play with us (David and me), while Zeke was going to play with Michael and Elijah. After I took out and set up Tikal, Nadine told me, happily, that while she was prepared to play it, she didn’t really like it and would prefer to play Starfarers. Luckily, Zeke was happy to switch to Tikal, so they switched.

People should really fill out a list of games and their preferences, so I can match them up properly before the game starts.

Anyway, I didn’t see much of this game (I prefer to keep my eyes on my own game). Michael and Elijah traded the friendship token of one of the alien races back and forth as they oscillated each between 13 and 11 points. Somehow, one of them managed to acquire two more points while still in possession of the token to win the game.

Tikal

David 104, Jon 80, Gili 68, Zeke/Saarya 64

Just as we started, Gili showed up, so we redrew the tiles and started again.

The first pick held two treasure fields, so there was little point in bidding. Still, I foolishly paid 4 points to go first. As the game progressed, David had the most treasures and sets. Zeke had 5 treasures, all different, while I had three sets of two.

Gili was behind in treasures, but way ahead in temples, with five or so ready to score by the first scoring round, so I went and stole one of hers right before scoring. This was instead of stealing David’s, whose temples were harder to get to, anyway. I thought Gili was more likely to get ahead at that point. I definitely set her back, but at the expense of giving the game to David. He now had best treasures, at least as good temples, and no chance for anyone to steal them.

Zeke took a very, very long time to make most of his moves. I tried to tell him that there is no “best move” no matter how long you stare at the board. Eventually, I had to give him a time limit; that is a rare event for me. Nadine suggested that he was having a hard time playing because I/we weren’t giving him enough strategy advice for his first plays. I guess she was right, but I feel uncomfortable basically playing the game for someone. On the one hand, Zeke is pretty young; on the other hand, he is pretty bright. I think he was just a little overwhelmed by the amount of options in the game.

After the first scoring round, we were pretty close. By the second round, David was ahead, and I was close behind, along with Gili. By the third round, which was the turn before the last, Gili had slipped back, and David was far ahead. There was no real chance to change positions before the game ended. We couldn’t even use a number of actions at the end. Every temple tile had been placed and guarded, and the treasures taken.

Web of Power

Gili 64, Jon 60, David 53

One more time for this flawed, but quick and interesting little game. The flaw I mentioned in the previous session report was not as pronounced in this game, which was only with three players. Actually, I think what I mentioned is still a flaw, but perhaps not quite so bad as I thought. I guess the issue is that the controller of a region will always remain controlled of the region, unless he is foolish enough to give it away. In the meantime, there’s a lot of jamming up the works for everyone else.

A different flaw is that all pieces and placement opportunities were used up by 2/3 of the way through the deck the second time; we had nothing left to do but throw the cards in. Inelegant. Makes me think I must have missed a rule somewhere about three player games.

Still, for all my complaining, it is still a lot of game for a light game. David is the only one who scored big on ambassadors, while I had two roads. Gili meanwhile took much of the rest of the board, often being the one who placed the proverbial “one cathedral to earn almost as much in second place as the first place player of a region”, while using far less resources to do it. So her numerous second places, and some first places, added up to our less frequent first places. Well done.

Yehuda


Jun 08, 2005

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Zeke, Nadine, Elijah, Ben, Gili, Rachel A

My game prototype

Saarya+, Nadine, Jon, Zeke

I finally got the group to playtest my game prototype with four players, despite the fact that the publishers have already taken it to make a mockup. As you can tell, both I and the potential publishers are new to this sort of thing. It is hard to round up game testers when you need them, actually.

Turns out that the game with four players had a few problems at the end of the game, which I had to figure out how to solve, elegantly, if possible. Luckily, I think I solved them, but I am concerned; we should try the game again to ensure that nothing else broke with the solutions.

Nadine seemed to like it. Saarya seemed to like it somewhat, at least more than the games he dislikes. Zeke seemed not to like it, but it’s hard to tell with Zeke. Can’t please everyone. I still like it, which is a good thing.

Now that I have one game almost done (hopefully), I need to get cracking and make more games, to have something after the first one succeeds.

Anyway, Saarya eventually managed a victory.

Dvonn

Elijah+, Jon

Meanwhile, I split my attention to play Dvonn with Elijah, who was waiting for the prototype game to end. I rarely win any games while playing with split attention; however, I do pay attention in both, at least. I snapped up a nice part of the board, but didn’t manage to disable one of his pieces in time to prevent it from leap across the board to eat my big stack.

Cities and Knights of Catan

Ben 13, Zeke 9, Elijah 4

We split into two groups.

Second time for both Ben and Elijah, and first time for Zeke. Ben remembered after he started playing that he had a problem with the game being even more lucky than regular SoC. He managed to win, with three cities, a metropolis, three settlements, and longest road.

Apparently, the barbarians pillaged a lot, and Zeke single handedly did most of the saving, earning victory points, but letting the others shirk their responsibility of building knights. Ben progressed a lot, but only drew one or two progress cards throughout the game.

Traumfabrik

Jon 108, Nadine 83, Saarya 72

Meanwhile, we had a three player game of this Knizia classic. Generally, auction games are better with the full complement of players. Some stink with three, such as Oasis, but this one works fine.

Nadine began with the first movie. I kept getting outbid, so I saved contracts until I realized at the end of round two that I had 29 of them. With one on the board, that left 6 contracts total between Saarya and Nadine.

I managed to take what I needed during the rest of the game, and ended with best work at the end of round three for 19 points, and best green work, best directors, and worst movie.

Web of Power

Gili 40, Saarya 39, Nadine 38, Jon 36

A runaway victory as you can see from the scores … NOT. With four careful players, we ended up with a single road segment among all four of us with 4 cathedrals, and a single ambassador connection among all four of us on the board worth 5 points.

None of us can really say why anyone won here. The game has a design flaw. I have no problem with the idea of not having enough actions to do all you want. WoP has the situation midway through the game where the first one to make a move on a region, such as adding another cathedral, lets someone else add the ambassador. You need to be able to add two cathedrals and an ambassador at once to a region for it to be worth your while, and you can’t do that. That means noone is willing to play. Not a very good mechanic, in my opinion. Most of the game the problem doesn’t come up; there is usually something to do, which mostly means blocking someone else.

The game otherwise has a lot of elegance.

Puerto Rico

Nadine 50, Jon 40, Ben 36, Rachel 35

Ben is the type who doesn’t play by the known strategies pf PR. He beat me numerous times in previous games, after I had begun playing on BSW, mostly by throwing the game into chaos, and picking up the pieces as they were thrown back at him.

But Rachel and Nadine are also excellent players, and they took advantage of the chaos that ensued; mostly Nadine, actually. I can’t really say what Rachel did wrong, but Craftsman was taken 8 times in the game, and Ben took it 7 of those times. Since I was sitting after him, you might think this would have benefitted me, but it didn’t much, since a lot of those times I was governor, and play passed to Rachel.

After Rachel and Nadine locked boats, Ben got locked out of shipping and ended up dumping most of his goods. He had Factory, so it wasn’t a total loss, but Nadine had a complete Factory and Guild Hall, and then City Hall, too, which was game.

Nadine adds:

With good players, luck makes a bigger difference – I started with Corn and was able to select a Coffee right off; though my possible early Corn trade with Small Market was blocked, and Ben’s wasn’t.

I also probably do better in general with familiar buildings….

Round Player Role Notes
1 Jon Settler Jon takes quarry. No corn. No corn for the next several Settlers. After all the non-corn tiles, Rachel and I calculated that Hospice and Hacienda might actually be worthwhile. Rachel ended up buying Hospice, which she plays very well. I took Hacienda when I had not much better to do, and I even pulled corn once, but the lack of end-game shipping prevented me from producing anything from it.
Rachel Builder Rachel builds sugar, leaving Nadine and Ben with Small Markets.
Nadine Mayor
Ben Craftsman Ben breaks with the understood early game strategy, setting up Nadine to take Prospector with a GP on round two.
2 Rachel Captain +
Nadine Prospector +
Ben Trader +
Jon Settler I take sugar ahead of Rachel.
3 Nadine Settler + Still no corn showing
Ben Craftsman +
Jon Mayor + Ben takes Cr again, before Rachel or I can produce. He ends up trading his corn, which works nicely for him.
Rachel Builder
4 Ben Trader +
Jon Prospector +
Rachel Mayor
Nadine Builder Nadine builds coffee, I build Large Market. Nadine sells only one coffee during the game, but it is a critical early one. I figure I won’t be able to trade any prime goods. I end up selling coffee twice, and sugar once, all with Large Market, too.
5 Jon Captain ++
Rachel Settler +
Nadine Mayor
Ben Craftsman + This one hurts me, and Ben, too. Rachel sells sugar for 4, while Nadine sells coffee for 5. Ben sells indigo for 2, and I am locked out.
6 Rachel Trader +
Nadine Builder + Nadine and Ben build Factory. I build coffee
Ben Craftsman
Jon Prospector +
7 Nadine Builder
Ben Mayor +
Jon Settler + I take coffee.
Rachel Craftsman + Rachel is now solely producing tobacco, and the trading house is empty.
8 Ben Trader + Ben trades indigo, I trade coffee, Rachel trades tobacco.
Jon Builder Ben and I get Harbor, Rachel and Nadine get Small Warehouse.Nadine adds: I never used my Small Warehouse, I didn’t have colonists for it, but I ended up not losing too many goods.
Rachel Captain +
Nadine Prospector +
9 Jon Mayor + First super mayor, with 10 colonists on it.
Rachel Settler +
Nadine Builder
Ben Craftsman + And again.
10 Rachel Trader + Rachel trades sugar. Trading House is full.
Nadine Captain + Ben loses control of the boats from here on out.
Ben Craftsman And again.
Jon Prospector +
11 Nadine Builder + Nadine gets Guild Hall.
Ben Mayor +
Jon Trader I trade coffee.
Rachel Captain
12 Ben Craftsman + And again. He is mostly doing this for the money from Factory, but Nadine is getting the same amount of money or more, and is also shipping goods.Nadine adds: I only received money for full Factory once, but it may have discouraged people from Crafting towards the end, though I also couldn’t really use the money.
Jon Captain I have lots of cash and don’t care what building I get, so I ship with Harbor.
Rachel Builder I get Customs House, Rachel gets Fortress.
Nadine Settler ++
13 Jon Prospector ++ Nadine is producing 5 GP each craftsman, and will likely take the fourth big building. Ben is at 7, and likely to take the fifth. I should have captained, which would have changed the endgame, as I would have crafted more, probably. Instead, even knowing what I know about the big building prospects, I foolishly take Prospector.
Rachel Captain Her best move. After this, she should have crafted more. Two boats were good for her, and she had warehouse.Nadine adds: If Rachel had crafted and shipped more, other people would also have benefited, with Mayor only she got points so it makes sense.
Nadine Mayor +
Ben Trader
14 Rachel Mayor Feeding her Fortress.
Nadine Builder + Ben is one GP shy, and a round too late. Nadine buys City Hall, and only has one building slot open. Ben gets the big building next round, but only after Nadine takes Mayor.
Ben Settler + Ben says that he definitely should have gotten this quarry earlier.
Jon Trader No one is shipping, because we are out of goods, and finally no one wants to craft, as it will let someone else ship.
15 Nadine Mayor Nadine fills in her big buildings.
Ben Builder Ben buys Residence.
Jon Prospector +
Rachel Captain + For the GP.

Final scores:

Jon: 16 ship + 20 build + 4 bonus = 40
Rachel: 14 ship + 14 build + 7 bonus = 35
Ben: 20 ship + 16 build + 0 bonus = 36
Nadine: 14 ship + 23 build + 13 bonus = 50

G’night.


Jun 01, 2005

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Yitzchak, Elijah, Zeke, Nadine, Gili, Ben, Ran, Eitan

Once again, a few people who said they would come didn’t, but we still had a good showing.

Jon’s game prototype

Jon, Saarya, Ben

I made this prototype to show two of my missing guests, a couple who are starting a game company and asked me to design some games for them according to certain requirements. I had hoped to playtest it earlier in the week, but didn’t get a chance to do it.

The game is an auction game, a little Knizia like, but with somewhat more luck. I made up a rulesheet, and Saarya and I set out to playtest it two-player, and three-player (with Ben).

We found two problems with the design, which I never would have seen without playtesting. One of them I fixed; the other is a smaller but more problematic rule regarding the scoring for the advanced version of the game. I will have to think about that one.

The game felt a little repetitious, like Traumfabrik, but still challenging and with some depth to the strategy. Of course, I can’t go into the rules in depth, but strategic mistakes in the play were made, and I wanted to play again to work on correcting them.

The game works as is, but could still use a little fine-tuning. The hardest part of designing is leaving mechanics out, trying to keep the game simple. My instinct is to throw all the best machanics of the games I love into the game. Not only does that make a mess, but it leaves me with nothing to put into my next game designs ;-).

San Juan

Yitzchak 44, Zeke 20, Elijah 17

Looks like it was a massacre.

Yitzchak 38, Jon 34

This was a wierd game. At the end of round four, I was tempted to build Aqueduct, which would have left the game state with both of us having exactly: Indigo/Tobacco/Aqueduct and no cards. I chose to wait, building on the next round, and then the same situation happened again at the end of the sixth round. At the end of the eighth round, my hand consisted of exactly four cards, one of each 6 point building.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to build my second 6 point building by game end, while Yitzchak could, leaving me down a few points.

ASL

Ran, Eitan

Ran says: German attack with Russian counter-attack. Germans managed with the help of an assault engineers company to storm the factory, and the Russian counter-attack was delayed by German delaying forces in the perimiter.

Eitan’s (Russian) troops ran beserk and he was cut down prematurely by Ran’s (Germans), leading to a surrender on round 4, which took about 4 hours.

Settlers of Catan

Saarya 10, Gili 6, Ben 6

Wheat was incredibly scarce, only producing on 10, 11, and 2, and those numbers just never rolled. On the other hand, 7 rolled a dozen times or so, which stalled the game for quite some time. Gili took Longest Road intially, but Saarya stole it back to win the game.

Princes of Florence

Jon 62, Yitzchak 61, Elijah 45, Zeke 32

Yitzchak looked like the sure winner, only to have me eke out a surprise one point win (this happened last time, too). His spirits remain high, however, and he vows to beat me next time.

My game started out with a Prestige card (all freedoms), which became null by round two after Yitzchak picked up the last Religion before I could get it. I next got a Builder and Jester, and risked another Prestige card (builder, jester, and two landscapes). Since I also had a Bonus card giving +2 per landscape, I hoped to actually achieve this one, and I magically did, also picking up one more Jester before the game ended.

Yitzchak bought two early Recruiters, and was awash in profesion cards. He wouldn’t have been able to play them all if he hadn’t gotten a Jester in the last round, but he did. He pulled way ahead, but he didn’t have actions enough to buy bonus cards and buildings, so he lost all of the “best works”. (My “best work” in the last round helped win the game.)

Zeke collected 4 Jesters meanwhile, and Prestige card for most jesters. But he overspent early, and used most of his works for cash.

Elijah got two early Builders, but at a high price, too much to overcome even with his two prestige cards. He played only a few works.

Tigris and Euphrates

Nadine 5/5/6/6, Gili 5/5/5/5, Ben 4/4/5/6, Saarya 3/3/4/4

We’re really pulling Gili over the coals with this one; in the end, she said she didn’t really like it. She said she preferred Settlers. This game was still a fairly new experience for most of the players (first time for Gili), and much deliberation was spent over each turn.

See you next week.


May 25, 2005

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Nadine, Elijah, David, Avraham, Zeke, Gili, Ben

From feast, to famine, back to feast. A nice crowd. But man, we must be the slowest game group on Earth. Games that take 2 hours with other groups take us 4 or 5 hours.

Gili is a newcomer. She was tossed unceremoniously into the heart of a full El Grande game with expansion. Very brutal. Still, she seemed to enjoy herself, and said she would like to come back. Fantastic! Hope we didn’t scare her away.

Geschenkt

David 12, Elijah 25, Zeke 32, Jon 51, Nadine 59

People arrived erratically, so we played this as a filler. It was Zeke’s first time (this will happen a lot, as he has only played Settlers of Catan and Amun-Re, so far). I lost control midway, and ran out of tokens. Zeke did fairly well. David Klein had only the 33-35 cards.

Starfarers of Catan

Jon 15, Zeke 13, David 11, Elijah 9

First time for all of them, second time for me. David leapt ahead to 9, while the others were at 5, and me at 4. Then I gained some fame, dropped two ports, and a spaceport, putting me at 9 as well. I gradually pulled ahead, finally winning by gaining first access to the last two uncontacted races. David was definitely on better numbers, but 4s and 11s seemed to roll more often than 8s and 6s. Fuel was in amazingly short supply, with nothing better than an 11 anywhere in the universe.

El Grande + King and Intrigant

A lot of fussing over the rules with this one, as some of the cards didn’t seem fully cooked. This was also first or second game for all involved, and I was called to make a number of interpretations. Still, everyone seemed to have a good time, but setup and card selection took an hour, and the game took 3.5 hours after that. Wow.

Nadine writes:

We didn’t just spend time setting up – we were reviewing and teaching the game, and waiting for everyone to arrive. But it did take a while….

Avraham would have won if Saarya hadn’t vetoed his special scoring at the end. I’m not saying I didn’t play well, but I did have luck – I got to bid last the first 3 rounds, in Round 8 I went second, following Gili who didn’t have a 10 left, and I benefitted the most from Saarya’s veto. Having New Castile is a disadvantage because it’s a popular region in the middle; being hit by the low scoreboard wasn’t as bad as I thought because having no second or third places made the region less competitive overall.

Scores:

Round 3 Round 6 Round 9
Nadine 37 56 84
Saarya 34 52 74
Avraham 33 56 81
Gili 28 46 67
Ben 25 53 81

Magic: the Gathering

Game 1: Jon 7, David 0
Game 2: Jon 10, David 0

Another red letter day, where I win my first two out of three against David for who knows how many years. My brilliant plan: I never win by skill, so go with luck. So I drafted and build a 4 color deck, just about even, with only 4 lands of each color (sans black) plus one or two multicolor mana generators. I never saw the generators, but I got all of the land types out when I needed them. Yay.

I also had lots of fliers and a nasty shadow (deals damage to whomever it wants when unblocked). David had the black creature removal, but not enough creatures of his own to stop me.

The first game I had him down to 1, with me still at 20, and I thought I was going to lose as he whittled me down, stopping my creatures with a regenerating blocker, and an unblockable that caused me to sacrifice a creature whenever he did damage. I was out of creatures on the table, so I couldn’t play any more unless I played two. I manged to plunk down two creatures at once, one of them being Giant Trap Door Spider, which could take care of his unblockable, but them I gained a trample instant, and attacked with GTS, doing the 1 point I needed to win.

The second game, I just outraced his creatures and bury cards.

That’s all folks.


May 18, 2005

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Saarya, Elijah, Zeke, Yonah, Eitan, Ran

Just when I thought game nights were getting smaller, and I wasn’t expecting to anyone to show except for Elijah and Nadine, we end up with three simultaneous games.

Yonah is Nadine’s son, who has experience with Puerto Rico, and not much else. Zeke came for game day, and finally made it back. He seemed to enjoy himself, and I hope he comes again.

Eitan and Ran only come to play ASL with each other, which is fine with me.

Settlers of Catan

Yonah 10, Zeke 6, Elijah 5

First play for Yonah, second or third for Zeke (I don’t remember if he played once or twice during game day). I saw a lot of developement cards being purchased. Three of Zeke’s points came from victory point cards, and Yonah had both Longest Road and Largest Army. Elijah seemed to have some sort of lumber industry going.

ASL

Ran 2 games, Eitan 0 games

Apparently, for his fourth time playing, Eitan is doing well.

They played ASL scenario 105, Going to Church. The Germans are holed up in a church, and the Canadians are attacking. The whole scenrio uses only a half a board.

Ran played the first game as the Germans, and made mincemeat of the attacking Canadians with his superior machine gun fire. For the second game, they switched sides. This time the Canadians advanced slowly, but not easily. Eventually, their mortar threw up a smokescreen while the shrapel simultaneously disabled the German squad, including knocking out their leader, and the church was taken.

Both said they had a good time and hope to come again, either next week or the one after.

Starfarers of Catan

Jon 16, Nadine 11, Jon 11

Our first play of this game, borrowed from a neighbor. The game was quite enjoyable. There are numerous different paths that are necessary all at once, and whatever path you take, you sacrifice somthing to do it. While the game seems repetitious, the options for one path to victory can quickly dry up, requiring you to try something else. I would easily compare its complexity to Cities and Knights.

A few negatives: the toy space ships are just ridiculous and cheap looking. The parts snap off way too easily. I like the three dimensionality of them, but I would have been happier with putting pegs in a small wooden ship or something.

Also, we played with the variant where you get two resources a turn. It was still about 4 hours for 3 people.

I guess the biggest issue, which is still not too big, is that unlike Settlers and Cities and Knights, it didn’t seem to matter which resources I placed my settlements next to, only which numbers. You pretty much need all of the the resources all the time, unlike Settlers, where you can make do by concentrating on a certain strategy. Second of all, with all of the random resources you collect from Earth, and the easy trade exchanges, every round I basically got a hand full of random resources. I didn’t get the feeling that there was any control over what I was getting.

Anyway, even the first time out it was pretty fun, and I would play again. I hope I got most of the rules right.

Saarya started out with the best exploration due to having succeeded with a wormhole; one wormhole can make a huge difference in the early game. I got the first friendship token, and then I acquired trade rings to conquer the ice planets, an avenue my opponents ignored to their eventual detriment. Actually, I was lucky to find the right planets when I needed to.

Nadine had the most boosters, which is large, but started out with less ships because of it. With a little extra luck, she could have taken away my friendship tokens.

All of the benefits I got from the aliens did me no good. I got two trading abilities, but I pretty much always used all of my cards directly. And I got the “aqueduct”, before I noticed that I would only collect on a 10 or 12. I should have taken the “buy fame tokens” card, which would have given me an earlier victory. As it was, none of us ever managed more than two fame rings.

Toodles.


May 05, 2005

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

David and Avraham almost came until they remembered that tomorrow, and therefore technically tonight also, is Yom Hashoah – Holocaust rememberance day. I do respect the day, but it is a secular observance, not a religious one, so I, personally, am not overly religious about it. But I understand why some others would not want to play games on this day.

Especially German games … or maybe, playing German games is a symbol about strengthening the new Germany that has come to recognize the errors of her past. Yet, anti-semitism and the willingness to destroy Jews (as well as other races) is still common in our world. Anyway, it’s a good day to discuss the issue.

However, I am planning a Bat Mitzvah for my daughter on shabbat, and I really needed a game break, so there you go.

Tigris and Euphrates

Yitzchak 6/7/7/9, Jon 5/6/6/6, Nadine 5/6/6/6, Saarya 5/5/5/6

I managed to convince Nadine to try to convince Yitzchak to try this again. Nadine seems to alternate between thinking that there is not enough control over what’s going on and thinking that with more experience you can do better. I’m not sure what her final opinion is.

Yitzchak lost badly the first time he played, and wasn’t too keen to play again, but he won this time, so I think he also may be over the hump, so to speak. We will see if they turn it down the next time I suggest it.

Our game spread out very quickly, and four treasures were taken quickly. I ended the game without any of them. Then we stalled a bit, with a disaster splitting up the central kingdom.

I couldn’t pick a red tile to save my life, and languished at 2 reds until the second to last turn of the game. The turn before that I tossed tiles; on the penultimate turn I plunked down two red tiles and formed a monument, leaping to 5.

Yitzchak took a very long time for each move, and even had to take a phone call for half an hour at one point. When he did play, it was quite solidly, and we all felt he was probably doing pretty well.

Saarya got into several conflicts that seemed to benefit other more than himself, including initiating conflicts that he wasn’t involved in.

Nadine and Yizchak kept fighting the same internal conflict in the lower left corner. It was kind of funny to see one king dropped and the other removed, only to see the reverse happen again the next round, for about three turns.

Crossword Squares

Jon 66, Nadine 56

During Yitzchak’s phone call, I introduced Nadine to a pen and paper game from New Rules for Classic Games, a delightful book. I got the scoring rules wrong, but even so Nadine said it was the best pen and paper game she has played. And it’s darn simple.

Each person draws a 5×5 grid with a pen which he keeps hidden, and then alternates calling letters. Each time a letter is called, you have to place it in your grid somewhere. At the end of the game, you score a certain amount of points for words. In the real rules, it’s 1, 2, and 4 points for 3, 4, and 5 letter words, horizontally or vertically, like a crossword (overlaps allowed, but not fully contained words). I didn’t look it up, so I scored 6 for a 4 letter word, 10 for a 5 letter word, and I also allowed diagonals.

Of course, we both came up with completely different words, and it’s amusing to see what people come up with.

Puerto Rico

Jon: 24S + 21B + 8Bo = 53, Rachel: 27S + 18B + 6Bo = 51, Nadine 12S + 23B + 15Bo = 50, Yitzchak: 23S + 16B + 5Bo = 44

Aside from other changes noted in previous session reports, some buildings of note that we used: Civil Office (Library bonus for a single phase only of your choice), Gold Smelters (2 colonists, lets you take Gold Mines during Settler; with two GMs, you can produce 1 Gold barrel, which sells for 6 and ships for 3 into the Hold along with another shipment you make).

Yitzchak tookCivil Office and chose Builder, which served him reasonably well, as he took Builder at least twice. I tried a very early Gold Smelters. I traded a few times, but not as much as the awesome amount of Coffee trading Nadine managed. And I only got to ship Gold once. Then I took Civil Office: Trader and took Trader only once, so that ended up being a bust. My victory came mostly from Harborand Wharf which I bought with the Gold trades.

That trade I took was a huge stupid error, as right after I took it, Yitzchak and Rachel then had enough to buy the last two big buildings. If I had waited, I could have gotten to one of them first. Argh.

Rachel had a good production facility and Factory going, while Nadine’s coffee trades gave her two large buildings but no shipping to speak of.

Between Discretionary Hold (really, just see my previous session reports) and Gold Smelter, space in the Holds was tight, adding a new resource scarcity to the game, and giving it a fresh tactical aspect to think about.

Toodles.


Apr 28, 2005

Game Day

Participants: Jon, Rachel A, Saarya, Nadine, Yitzchak, Elijah, Michael, Zeke, Yosef, Yaron, Alan (, Eitan, Ran, et al…)

Puerto Rico (1), Wed 23:00 – 23:45

Well, another successful game day that started the night before, when Rachel and I played a two-player game of Puerto Rico to unwind. Our usual close game. Rachel took an unusual Hacienda route, along with Hospice (we play that you can activate it the turn you buy it) and Factory, while I took corns, quarries, large market and lots of big buildings. A tight game as usual, which I won by two points.

ASL, Thurs 7:00 – 22:00

Another non-game day game was the simultaneous game of ASL being played in Raanana by Ran and his friends, to which I send my son Eitan off to play from 7 am until 10 pm. The game was held simultaneously only by coincidence, but I’ll happily include mention of it in this report. This was Eitan’s third exposure to ASL, and he played on Ran’s team, as he is still learning the ropes. He had a great time. They played some campaign in Greece from early in the war, Greek versus British, where the British won, despite having misplaced their initial tanks rather seriously and losing them all at the beginning of the campaign. Fortune smiled on the British, as with some poor dice rolls on the Greek side, the tide was able to swing back. Two other players were also playing in the same place, along with Ran, Eitan, and their opponent, Dan.

My first act of the day was to prepare Magic decks for drafting. Since all of my cards were in alphabetical order, I had to mix for more than an hour to get any sort of random decks. Fortunately, or unfortunately, no one showed up for the first hour of game day, anyway, and I finished in time for Nadine to appear. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to play Magic, but now I have two decks ready for next time we want to play.

Puerto Rico (2), 10:40 – 12:00

Nadine, Rachel, and I sat down to a quick game of 3 player. I already don’t remember much of this one, but I won it barely at 51 to 50 to 48. Nadine took Giant Production Building as her big building, which is only worth 5 VP, but gives you an additional good of each type you produce. She complained about this for a while, since she got it too late to really show its power, but it still gave her a good 5 extra shipping points over two turns, so she was mollified.

Princes of Florence (1), 12:00 – 14:00

Our group seems to like have brought this game back into rotation. Despite a slow careful thinking pace, we all seem to experience a rich satisfied feeling after playing the game, and we all, for the most part, score pretty well, despite often intense, and painful, auction fighting in the last round or two.

Yaron, who visits only rarely from Teal Aviv, was roped into playing, even though he wasn’t too interested. I also taught Michael for his first game.

Elijah, in his second time playing, won his second game of PoF. Pretty impressive for a 9 year old boy. Both times he had at least two prestige cards, 2 builders, and a mix of other items. It’s kind of hard to describe, actually. Most items, especially recruiters and jesters went for top prices, with builders not far behind.

Final scores: Elijah 50, Michael 47, Nadine and Yaron 46, Jon 43.

San Juan, 13:00 – 15:00

Yitzchak came at the second turn of the PoF game, and looked at the Magic cards for about an hour while waiting for someone else to come. Both Yaron and I offered to get up to let him in, but he declined.

Eventually, Alan, Saarya, and Yosef showed up. Alan came back after being away for 6 months or so, the first time since he left for yeshiva and eventually marriage. He was happily able to make free time for our day. Yosef was new to our group, but apparently has played in some heretofore unheard of game group in Jerusalem that has played for some number of years (!) and has at times had more than 20 simultaneous attendees (!) for Shabbat games. At present they have not met for a while. But where did they come from? How come they don’t know about my game group? Or web site? How come I don’t know about them? Always new surprises.

We introduced Alan and Yosef to San Juan, and they played a long long San Juan game. Yitzchak started with an early 6 pointer in his hand, which he tossed, and then spent the rest of the game trying to find again.

Results: Yitzchak 38 + 2, Alan 38 + 0, Saarya 31, Yosef 28

Settlers of Catan, 14:00 – 14:45

We finished PoF about halfway through the San Juan game and wrangled a bit about what to play next. Zeke had shown up – Zeke is another youth, who came for the first time. I wanted his first experience to be Settlers of Catan, but other didn’t want to play, and we needed medium length games. So while the others went to play Traumfabrik, Nadine, Zeke, and I played SoC. Most introductory SoC games are balanced and the new player often wins. Maybe that’s when you play 4 player. In our game, I placed my first two settlements on the 5/9/10 + 5/9/10, and guess what three numbers rolled up all game? It was pretty pathetic.

Jon 10, Nadine 5, Zeke 4

Traumfabrik, 14:00 – 15:00

First plays for Yaron and Michael. Scores: Elijah 101, Yaron 90, Michael 35. Elijah’s on a roll.

Quiddler, 14:45 – 15:00

Nadine gave us a quick intro to Quiddler, which is a card game that I would describe exactly as Gin Rummy with letter cards. Each round you get more and more cards, starting from 3, up until 10 (?). On your turn, you pick and discard. If you can form all of your letters into one or more words, you (call Gin and) lay down your cards. The other players then each have one more turn to lay down all they can.

Unfortunately, it is much easier to form words than get Gin in Gin rummy, and every round, the first player to go called Gin immediately, and if not, the player after him. Therefore, there was very little in the way of strategy or hand management, it was all anagramming, which I like, and luck, which I don’t.

We played a few rounds with 5, 6, and 7 card hands.

Amun Re, 15:00 – 19:30

At 15:00, we started two full games, Amun Re and Taj Mahal. These guys take their time playing Amun Re, man. Four and a half hours.

They had a good time, however. Zeke found it less complicated than Settlers – he really didn’t play much Settlers. Yosef liked it (and won) – hopefully he will tell the rest of his game group. Scores (3rd/6th): Yosef 15/48, Saarya 17/43, Elijah 15/37, Yitzchak 15/33, Zeke 7/26

Taj Mahal, 15:00 – 18:15

Meanwhile, we played what could only be described as a pleasant and pretty non-confrontational game of TM, with almost no battles until the last part of the game. We built our hands up, and Nadine took a slow lead. Eventually, Alan and Yaron fought over elephants, and then Nadine fought over something else.

My hand managed to grow and grow in green cards, mostly due to having the multicolor bonus card to use my little suits. By round 10, I was still trailing; I had very few commodities, and little pockets of palaces all over. Rounds 10, 11, and 12 were my rounds, however, as I connected many of them and had almost all cards of one color and bonus cards. I had to really hurt Nadine in round 11 to do it.

Scores: Jon 49, Alan 41, Yaron and Nadine 38

Puerto Rico (3), 19:00 – 20:45

After our dinner, still waiting for them to finish Amun Re, we played PR again. This time I thought I was doing pretty well, but somehow Nadine swept her way to a decisive victory. Rachel was rather upset that Mayor was taken before she could finally build her big building, which preventing her from manning it by game end. Alan started playing, but had to go, so Yitzchak took over for him in the last few rounds.

Scores: Nadine 33Sh+22Bld+7Bon=62, Jon 21+20+12=53, Alan/Yitzchak 26+17+6=49, Rachel 25+16+0=41

Princes of Florence (2), 21:00 – 23:00

Yitzchak and Saarya didn’t get to play PoF earlier, so the remaining other players agreed to another game. Elijah didn’t win, for a change.

Yitzchak started out ahead, with 3 jesters, but he paid heavily for them, and had to play works for cash to keep going. Saarya and I got 2 recruiters each, which are lovely in five player. In the second to last round, I again skipped getting the remaining item I really needed, a park, assuming that I would be able to get it the last auction. I keep doing that. Instead, I got a prestige card and picked five utterly useless prestige card. So I though anyway. E.g. “Most Jesters”, when I have 1 and Yitz has 3, and one auction remains. Stuff like that. I did keep “most buildings”, which I thought was pretty unlikely, but possible, if other players, who at the time had more buildings than me, did not build any more.

Turns out that they didn’t, and, since Nadine bid up the park I needed in the last round, and then Saarya bid up the Jester (at a loss of 6 points to pay for it), I could no longer afford to play both of my remaining professions. Instead I got a second builder and a building, each worth 3 points, and then played my work, and a net loss of only a few points, and ended up getting my prestige card for a net bonus!!! Yitz though he finally had won, but I turned over my prestige card, stunned that I was actually able to use it, and ended up winning.

Scores: Jon 49, Yitzchak 47, Nadine 44, Saarya 39, Elijah 38

Thank you all for coming, and see you all again soon!


Apr 20, 2005

No game session tonight, as Passover draws close and I wanted to ensure that our house is ready. Passover preparations, for you who are not in the know, is like spring cleaning on steroids. Attention to detail varies, but generally speaking every single crumb of “leavened” food – bread, cake, anything from grain – has to be searched for and removed from anyplace you own, right down to the invisible crumbs on your clean dishes and wall sockets. So we scour every room, empty all pockets, burn or boil various kitchen objects, and either consume, lock away and sell, burn, or otherwise destroy whatever remains.

This can be a miserable chore or a rebirthing experience, depending on your point of view, and how much of it falls unfairly on your shoulders, as opposed to, say, your spouse’s or children’s shoulders.

Anyway, we were finished a little early this year, and I admit that Rachel did most of it. No comment. Later in the evening we played a game of Puerto Rico just to unwind.

Puerto Rico

Buildings: AqueductSmall Fashion District (2/1, sell indigo at +2), Black MarketSmall WarehouseMayor’s Estate (4/2, extra colonist during Mayor), Large MarketOffice,Discretionary Hold (6/2, store up to 3 barrels, place one barrel on each full ship for 1 VP), Specialty Factory (7/3, +1 GP/barrel of one good produced -1, includes corn), Large Business (8/3, -1 GP/building, +1 VP during Captain phase), Large General Workhouse (8/3, 2 circles, produce anything with corresponding plantations), WharfCathedral (10/4, +1 VP/3 VP’s from red building VPs), Fairgrounds (I think that was what it was called) (10/5, +0/1/2/3/5/7 VP for 0/1/2/3/4/5/6 plantation types), Fortress, Custom HouseCity Hall.

I have finally had it with Aqueduct. I keep trying it out, but the building is just too strong, possibly even worse than Small Market. The problematic thing about most of the expansion buildings is that they move the game play into specialty strategies. When you produce so many goods so quickly, the basic flow of PR is just disrupted. The same goes for Black MarketChurchUnion Hall. I am not commenting on whether the buildings are stronger or weaker, only that the game seems to be become less interesting as the owners are just not interested in half of the roles anymore. Maybe this is just a two player phenomenon.

Black Market netted me a Specialty Factory for two gold pieces fairly early, but it wasn’t enough to save me from Ms Aqueduct, who produced something like 8 goods by turn 5. Black Market also, I don’t know. It bugs me. I prefer my own similar building, Bazaar (2/1, trade barrel, GP, or VP for extra colonist during Mayor; colonist, GP, VP for extra barrel during Crafstman; or colonist, barrel, or VP for extra GP during Trader). Bazaar is bizarre, but it is not unbalancing, not stultifying in terms of strategy, and requires some creativity to use effectively. Black Market just leaves me with a dull listless feeling after using it.

The other buildings listed all continue to be good balanced buildings.

In case it wasn’t clear, Rachel administered a beatdown for so many points, I didn’t bother to count.


Apr 13, 2005

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

Slow night, hoping that we’ll again pick up more players as time goes by. Still, I’m grateful to the regulars who keep coming. Yitzchak couldn’t make it, due to a cold.

Attika

Nadine won.

I decided to try this one again, having garnered a very bad impression of it two player. The people who had played it four player liked it, however.

For the most part, we all really didn’t like it. Most of the game we harped on two themes: way too much luck, and extremely unengaging. Yeah, you have to plunk a city down to block someone. Ho hum. Other than that, there is nothing, nothing, nothing. No trading, no scarce resources (just barely, if you count people taking places on the board), blah. Just take your turn (real slowly) and then the next player does the same.

Also, like some other game failures, there is no progression in the game. Plop a building, go, plop a building, go. Over and over, rather like Hansa. Also, as Saarya pointed out, the game rules are extremely annoying, like playing in a cage of rules poking you whenever you try to do something. The worst of the lot is the rule about placing new hexes, which can only be done during your turn, after you’ve drawn, and therefore only able to place, max, one building on it. This guarantees everyone else time to use the hex to greater advantage then you could ever have gotten from it.

Well, even after all those impressions, towards the end of the game, my opinion began to turn, ever so slightly. First of all, like many other games with luck, players can work to decrease the impact that bad luck will have on them. That way, you are likely to find yourself winning more games than average. This is not really a compelling mechanic, but it does exist.

Second, the key, and in fact, only way to win the game (other than just being the first to put out all their buildings), is to build up a slew of free actions to dump in one round and win before other players can stop you. Without the free action mechanic, the game would be truly sad. With it, you have just enough time to pull the new hex, and pull enough cities that, with luck, will allow you to connect. Of getting to the free actions first is … luck.

I figured out that you have to balance the need to do the occasional blocking, with trying to maximize the amount of free turns you earn and buildings paths you create, just so that you can go for broke in a single turn by pulling a building, placing a hex, and hoping to pull enough buildings to bridge th distance before anyone stops you.

I don’t think this one will be hitting the table ever again, although I am still just a little curious as to whether there is any more to it than we’ve seen.

Nadine comments: It might be fun to play again now that we know the strategy that wins, and it will be competitive to accomplish it. It wasn’t luck that I could build the buildings to win, I knew in advance that I had the sub-building to the black one that was left to turn over, and I had the cards to build the black one. It was luck or something that no one blocked me, which wouldn’t happen again.

Jon responds: Hmmm. Did you win the game by drawing a building, and then building a building, all in one turn? That would have been a mistake.

Nadine responds: Wow you’re right, I did it wrong! Which should make you all feel better, except that I would have won anyway. I guess I thought the extra action could include any action. But I had enough cards to build anything that I would have drawn, especially those little buildings – I only needed one and I had about 10 cards. I thought I had more cards than I needed, but I guess not. I can’t imagine anything I couldn’t build, I had at least 4 sets of two cards and a good variety. And I still had another action, so a choice of two drawn buildings. That’s what I get for commenting…

Jon responds: I agree that you would have won anyway.

Dvonn

Nadine and I started a game of Dvonn while waiting for Elijah and Saarya to agree on another game to play. This was Nadine’s first time. We reached a point where it seemed inevitable that I would win, and she resigned. Of course, first game is a learning game, and she didn’t have a full grasp on the rules until the end of the game.

Cities and Knights of Catan

Jon 13, Nadine 11, Saarya 10, Elijah/Rachel 10

Been a while since we’ve played this, since, again, the luck factor in C&K is far more pronounced than in Settlers. Again, you can work to mitigate the luck factor; noone can say that I got any breaks in this game, but I still managed to pull off a close victory. As an exmaple, I had the only city on a wood hex – 8, but Saarya managed to build a city on a 6 wood hex AND gain Aqueduct 12 turns before me.

This was Elijah’s first try, and Rachel took over his position after he had to leave. Nadine had only played a half a game before.

Metropoli were stolen twice, and many city improvement charts reached the last level, which is unusual in our games. I was in last place for a while, until I stole the yellow metropolis. At the very last instant, Nadine tried very hard to come up with a win before my turn, but she could only gain 3 points, enough to get to twelve (with the merchant), but not enough to prevent me from a guaranteed win with Alchemist, Merchant, and enough roads to steal longest road.

Even with 4 players, the board did not feel as crowded as in Settlers, since so much more effort goes into doing other things.

Nadine comments: I had played much less than half a game and didn’t remember much. In addition to a lot of luck, which theroretically should even out somewhat throughout the game, there is ganging up and individually attacking other players, which makes it feel less fair combined with the luck factor. Jon and Saarya were the real competitors because they were experienced, Rachel came in half way through; I think as Jon implied that skill mattered a little more than luck as the differentiating factor – Saarya had the most luck in rolls, and was in the best position most of the game.

Jon responds: The ganging up is not necessarily bad. Plenty of games there is no way to catch the leader, such as Taj Mahal, and the game is just biding time until they win. I would have said that skill and experience matters most in Princes of Florence, but Elijah won his first game of that, and I think he could have won his first game of C&K, too (with a little more prudence regarding his trading).


Apr 06, 2005

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Yitzcak, Elijah, Rachel A

A Mazal Tov to Yitzchak on his engagement! Yay! This, he explains, is the reason why he wasn’t at the club the last few weeks. OK, acceptable excuse this time. But just this time.

Puerto Rico

Rachel A was willing to stick around for a game of PR, so we played 5 player. A long and ponderous game, again, but still very enjoyable. 5 player with strong competition is very tough, and a lot of resources you take for granted in 3 or 4 player disappear in 5 player, such as the production buildings you need, trading space, ship space, barrels, etc…

Buildings:

  • Assembly Line instead of Small MarketSmall Market is too strong, generally, although in 5 player, the corn players don’t end up with them, so I probably could have left them in.Assembly Line allows all of your production buildings to hold an additional colonist. You still need the plantations and colonists to make use of this. Like many small buildings, sometimes it is worth it, and sometimes it isn’t. I bought it and made use of it a lot. Elijah bought it and didn’t have the right conditions to get it working.
  • Small Fashion District instead of Construction Hut. None of us are quarry monsters, soConstruction Hut is considered weak. SFD allows you to sell indigo at +2.
  • Trading Post instead of Office. No explanation necessary.
  • Discretionary Hold instead of Large Warehouse. I don’t have to explain why no LWDHallows you to a) store up to 3 goods, and b) place any barrel onto a full ship for 1 VP. However, only one barrel may be placed onto a full ship, so if two people have DH, they go in order placing into full ships. If only one has it, their placement is unobstructed. A powerful building, maybe too powerful. But we always play with it, as it is better than the official 6 pointers or any of the other 6 pointers I have come up with.
  • Large General Warehouse instead of UniversityLGW has 2 circles and allows you to produce any two goods along with the corresponding manned plantations. You decide which while producing. Also a little strong, it combos well with Factory, and yet noone bought it this game until the end, for the VP’s.
  • Cathedral instead of Guild HallGH is better than the other 10 pointers, so removed. Instead,Cathedral gives 1 VP for each VP you have in red VP’s on all of your buildings. A good opposite to City Hall.
  • Fairgrounds (worth 5 red points) instead of ResidenceResidence is boring and weak.Fairgrounds gives +0,1,2,3,5,7 for 1,2,3,4,5,6 different types of tiles in your plantation space (including quarries). We really don’t need more diversity in the game, but in 5 player it was kind of fun, as everyone basically built toward it (but only one person could actually get it).

Seating order: Nadine, Rachel, Jon, Yitzchak, Elijah.

Round 1:

  • N/Settler. N:Corn, R:Corn, J:Sugar, Y:Tobacco, E:Tobacco. N forgoes a quarry, which is rather odd. While it did give her some VP’s in shipping, I think it lost her an equal amount in building. E starts off already to the left of another tobacco player, which hurts his trading, but helps his shipping.
  • R/Builder. R:Large Indigo, J:Small Sugar, Y:—, E:Assembly Line, N:Small Indigo. As I mentioned, E never gets the Assembly Line going. R’s Large Indigo – another strange choice. She ends up shipping a heck of a lot, but is a round shy of acquiring any big building. Note that there is no Small Market in this game.
  • J/Mayor. J mans his sugar.
  • Y/Prospector.
  • E/Prospector.

Round 2:

  • R/Mayor. R now has indigo and corn going. Once again, she gave up cash to do it.
  • J/Craftsman(+1).
  • Y/Captain(+1).
  • E/Builder. E:Tobacco, N:—, R:Small Fashion District, J:Small Indigo, Y:Tobacco. R uses SFD quite often.
  • N/Settler. N:Quarry, R:Coffee, J:Sugar, Y:Indigo, E:Indigo. I take sugar because there is nothing left but 1 sugar and the rest indigo. This gives me more chance at an early sugar monopoly.

Round 3:

  • J/Trader(+2).
  • Y/Prospector(+1).
  • E/Mayor. E and Y are now producing tobacco. Boats already have corn, indigo, and sugar.
  • N/Prospector(+1).
  • R/Settler. R:Quarry, J:Corn, Y:Corn, E:Coffee, N:Coffee.

Round 4:

  • Y/Builder(+1). Y:Small Indigo, E:—, N:Coffee, R:—, J:Assembly Line. Assembly LIne is particularly good for Small Indigo and Small Sugar.
  • E/Settler. E:Tobacco, N:Sugar, R:Indigo, J:Tobacco, Y:Coffee. We are all taking diverse production in case we buy Fairgrounds. It’s a good thing to do, anyway. I never end up producing Tobacco.
  • N/Mayor. N now producing Coffee. I’m producing corn, indigo, and sugar.
  • R/Craftsman(+1). R feeds both E and N lots of cash. She wants to trade indigo, but I don’t cooperate.
  • J/Captain(+1). If I don’t take Captain, E gets his tobacco, N gets coffee, and then gets Captain with (+2) on it. I don’t know why I didn’t just trade myself at this point.

Round 5:

  • E/Trader(+1). E trades tobacco, N trades coffee.
  • N/Prospector(+1).
  • R/Prospector(+1). I guess not good for me either way.
  • J/Settler. J:Quarry, Y:Sugar, E:Tobacco, N:Tobacco, R:Sugar.
  • Y/Captain. Y secures the 8 boat for tobacco.

Round 6:

  • N/Builder(+1). N:Tobacco, R:Sugar, J:—, Y:—, E:— . We suggested Harbor, Wharf or Large General Workhouse to N. N takes Tobacco partially to prevent me from taking it.
  • R/Mayor(+1).
  • J/Settler. J:Quarry, Y:Tobacco, E:Coffee, N:Corn, R:Indigo. Unusual for me to take 2 quarries, but I was looking at no trade goods, so I was starting to think “Now what?”
  • Y/Prospector.
  • E/Craftsman(+1). This gives E 4 tabocco, but allows R to trade indigo.

Round 7:

  • R/Trader(+1). R nets 5 GP, I net 2 trading sugar.
  • J/Prospector(+1). I do this a lot.
  • Y/Captain(+1). E ships all 4 tobacco. I think a coffee boat starts now, too.
  • E/Builder. E:Coffee, N:Small Sugar, R:Discretionary Hold, J:Large Market, Y:Small Sugar. R’s Discretionary Hold is a knockout in 5 player, because she is uncontested. My Large Market is also unsual for me. I am looking at a pretty easy trade situation, but no trade goods. I could have paid for LGW, but that eats up all my money just to produce tobacco. I could have bought Factory, but it cost two more, and for about the same benefit.
  • N/Mayor.

Round 8:

  • J/Prospector(+1). Did I mention that I do this a lot?
  • Y/Settler(+1). Y:Quarry, E:Corn, N:Corn, R:Coffee, J:Indigo. I am using my Assembly Line now to produce double indigos and sugars instead of my single corn plantation.
  • E/Mayor.
  • N/Trader. N trade coffee, R trades indigo, I trade sugar at +2.
  • R/Craftsman(+1).

Round 9:

  • Y/Trader. Y trades tobacco.
  • E/Captain(+1).
  • N/Builder(+1). N:Wharf, R:Coffee, J:Fairgrounds, Y:Factory, E:—. OK, I should have bought Wharf or Discretionary Hold, but I just wanted the damn Fairgrounds before someone else got it.
  • R/Mayor. I lost a few VP’s by keeping my colonist on Large Market instead of manning my corn.
  • J/Prospector(+1). Hoping for second and maybe third big building.

Round 10:

  • E/Prospector(+1).
  • N/Settler(+1). N:Corn, R:Sugar, J:Coffee, Y:Indigo, E:Sugar. N now producing 4 corns on a Wharf. I get my 6th plantation type. I wish I could have bought Factory, LGW, and Fairgrounds, but I can’t buy everything at once.
  • R/Captain. R is shipping or using DH a ton, followed closely by N and E.
  • J/Builder. J:Small Warehouse, Y:Small Fashion District, E:—, N:—, R:Small Indigo.
  • Y/Craftsman(+1).

Round 11:

  • N/Trader(+1).
  • R/Captain.
  • J/Prospector(+1).
  • Y/Builder. Y:Custom’s House, E:—, N:Cathedral, R:Large Sugar J:—. Y gets Custom’s House mostly to prevent either N or R from getting it. E is hoping for a big building.
  • E/Settler. E:Quarry, N:Coffee, R:Sugar, J:Indigo, Y:Tobacco.

Round 12:

  • R/Mayor(+2).
  • J/Prospector(+1). I can get another building with no problem.
  • Y/Captain.
  • E/Craftsman(+1).
  • N/Trader. Now I’m awfully close to two more big buildings, and I already have one. I’m certainly losing the shipping race.

Round 13:

  • J/Builder(+1). J:City Hall, Y:Harbor, E:—, N:Trading Post, R:—. E thinks hard. He wants the last big building, but doesn’t know who will get to it first. R has a good chance. Once E decides not to build, N gives up hope of getting it and buys fodder for her Cathedral. J also has a good chance at a third big building, or so it seems. However, it becomes painfully obvious that only E can get to it first in a moment.
  • Y/Mayor. Y primes the Harbor.
  • E/Trader. Y doesn’t have enough to get the big building, so E is now guaranteed to get it.
  • N/Prospector(+1).
  • R/Captain.

Round 14:

  • Y/Captain. To lock a boat for Harbor.
  • E/Builder. E:Fortress, N:Factory, R:Harbor, J:Wharf, Y:—.
  • N/Craftsman(+1).
  • R/Mayor.
  • J/Settler(+2). No reason.

Round 15:

  • E/Trader(+1).
  • N/Captain.
  • R/Craftsman
  • J/Builder. J:Hospice, Y:Large General Workhouse, E:Large General Workhouse, N:Discretionary Hold. That’s it for all buildings in column 3.
  • Y/Mayor. Wants the game to be over, and this does it.

Final results:

J: ship 16 + build 20 + bonus 14 = 50
Y: ship 22 + build 19 + bonus 5 = 46
E: ship 21 + build 14 + bonus 6 = 41
N: ship 27 + build 22 + bonus 7 = 56
R: ship 33 + build 17 + bonus 0 = 50

Yay Nadine.

Geschenkt

Jon 18, Nadine 23, Yitzchak 34, Elijah [more]

Elijah wanted to play Geschenkt, since there wasn’t much time, but we wanted to play San Juan. I compromised with 1 game of each. Elijah didn’t do as well as he’d hoped.

Cards (in order taken by each player):

  • N: 20, 18, 11, 21, 17, 19
  • J: 6, 24, 8, 9, 23, 7, 10
  • Y: 15, 29, 3, 28, 16, 27
  • E: 25, 33, 26, 31, 35

San Juan

Yitzchak 39, Jon 38, Nadine 33, Elijah —

Elijah had to leave in the middle. After he left, we folded his cards back into the deck and kept playing.

Round Elijah Nadine Jon Yitzchak Notes
1 B/Poor House Pr/Tobacco Pp/Sugar C/Gold Mine I built Sugar because I had absolutely nothing else (I had 2 Guild Halls) and I didn’t want to lose momentum. Y’s GM missed 9 times before finally getting a card.
2 C/Smithy T/Tower B/Aqeduct Pp/—
3 C/— Pr/— B/Trading Post Pp/Prefecture My position looks nice, doesn’t it? However, noone builds any production buildings this whole game, except Elijah who leave before we can start cycling. So my great engine here, while nice, can’t compete enough with Library and Quarry, later on.
4 T/— Pp/— Pr/— B/Statue
5 B/Chapel Pp/Trading Post T/— C/—
6 Pr/Tobacco B/Carpenter Pp/Prefecture C/Tobacco
7 T/— Pp/— B/Well C/— I’ve built too many small buildings.
8 Pr/Silver Pp/Market Hall T/Market Stand B/Quarry Elijah leaves
9 Pp/Hero B/City Hall C/— I think I toss my 4th Guild Hall. I really didn’t need it.
10 Pr/— Pp/— B/Library
11 T/Triumphal Arch B/Palace Pp/Victory Column Y gets his first card from Gold Mine
12 C/— B/Victory Column Pp/—
13 Pp/— Pr/— B/City Hall
14 Pp/— T/— B/Aqueduct
15 B/Victory Column C/— Pp/—
16 Pp/Aqueduct C/Triumphal Arch B/Hero
17 Pr/— T/— C/—
18 C/Palace Pp/Guild Hall B/Guild Hall I couldn’t find either Statue or Hero, which I needed to win.

Mar 30, 2005

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Elijah, David K, Avraham K

Neither Nadine nor Yitzchak were able to make it this week; luckily, David and Avraham could. We are definitely hitting a low point in attendance. Not that that is necessarily a problem: 4 or 5 people make a great game. But more people make more games, and a better club, in my opinion. Must get the word out.

San Juan

David 28 (30), Avraham 22

A low scoring game, and a learning experience for both players who have only played once before. David and Avraham arrived slightly early, so they got in a two player game while I finished eating dinner. David told me his score was 28, but I believe he miscounted, as I get to 30.

Final buildings (not in order built):

  • David: Indigo, Smithy, Trading Post, Market Stand, Carpenter, Library, Prefecture, Chapel++, Statue, Tobacco, Victory Column, Triumphal Arch.
  • Avraham:Indigo, Triumphal Arch, Statue, Poor House, Prefecture, Tobacco, Coffee, Market Stand, City Hall.

Amun-Re

David 48, Saarya 35, Elijah 30, Jon 25, Avraham 24

A first time for Avraham, and another learning experience. I played without building a single brick in the first three rounds, hoping that I could save my money for cards and farmers which would provide me with a good position in the second half. Unfortunately, I could not draw a card for my life. I swore never to play card drawing games the normal way – last time I suggested that we play pick two, keep one, and that is the correct way to play. For some reason, I remembered that last time they played this game and that they picked only one card at a time and said they were fine with it – unfortunately, I made a mistake. It was Goa they were fine with pick one, not Amun-Re. Amun-Re has to be pick two, keep one.

Card after card of crap sunk me. Every round the other players played farmers, bonus harvest, 8 gold, etc… I get “adjust the harvest” (not within three points difference the first three times), scoring conditions I can’t meet, and duplicates thereof. My third round bid of 15 for Abydos was only to fulfill 2 vp cards.

So I sunk, no money, few points, while David, by round three had amassed some ten cards and was raking in huge profits. He gained 27 gold in round 2, and an amazing 52 in round 3. I said game over (as in, David is going to win by a large amount), and of course he did.

Meanwhile, Saarya was first pointwise by the end of the first scoring round at 21 points to Elijah’s 15 and David K’s 10. Saarya stould a good chance of almost maintaining the lead if Elijah hadn’t played the “adjust the harvest” card to knock the harvest down to feed the camels (of course, mine were long ago traded for cash), depriving Saarya of income, and doing not much to David who was now on his way to 10 pyramids.

David paid 57 gold for his last three provinces, and still came in second place for gold.

Round Elijah Saarya Jon David Avraham
1 Memphis (3) Baharya (3) Buro (0) Abu (3) Kharga (3)
2 Avaris (0) Amhara (10) Edfu (10) Mendes (6) Sawu (10)
3 Dahkla (6) Damanhur (10) Abydos (15) Berenike (0) Thaklos (10)
S 15 21 9 10 3
4 Avaris (6) Damanhur (10) Abydos (15) Memphis (21) Berenike (0)
5 Thaklos (6) Edfu (1) Dahkla (0) Abu (21) Kharga (21)
6 Buto (3) Mendes (0) Baharya (6) Amharna (15) Sawu (10)
F 30 35 25 48 24

Web of Power

Jon 52, Avraham 48, David 44, Saarya 40

Saarya also had his victory snatched from him, this time by me taking a critical ambassador position. Again, first time play for both David and Avraham. This is a pretty easy game as far as mechanics go, but the strange rules about placement limitations takes a game to absorb. I think it was enjoyed, but not overly so, although I still liked it a lot.


Mar 23, 2005

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

For some reason, the phone wouldn’t stop ringing. Every ten minutes I was interrupted, until finally, in the middle of Tikal, I received a bona fide emergency call (luckily not serious), and I had to leave, stranding Saarya and Yitzchak. Yitzchak couldn’t stay, so I came back to an ended game session. *sigh*

Puerto Rico + expansions

Rachel 57, Nadine 47, Jon 44, Yitzchak 43

I’m sorry, all of you purists out there, but we never play straight PR anymore. The following is a representative of the usual replacement buildings:

Aqueduct Not my favorite, as I feel it is a bit strong, about the same as Small Market which it has replaced. A better bet might be my Assembly Line, which allows all of your production buildings to hold an additional colonist.
Small Fashion District Almost a perfect building, replacing the weak and overly lucky Hacienda and the abysmally weak Construction Hut. Gives indigo starters a boost, combined with the absence of Small Market.
Civil Office A fun building, still a great unknown. When you buy Civil Office, choose a phase. You gain double the privilege (ala Library) whenever you take the phase. This happens even before you man the building, and it is tricky. Your best bet is usually a money gaining phase, but whatever phase you pick, other players conspire to prevent you from taking it. This subtly changes some of the dynamic in the game, in a good way.
Small Warehouse A critical building. I still don’t like it as much as Jim does, but it comes in handy
Hospice When you buy Hospice, you can move a colonist onto it. This slight change makes all the difference, changing Hospice from a never bought building into a balanced building.
Trading Post Much better than Office.
Large Market Worth buying occasionally.
Discretionary Hold Anything is better than Large Warehouse. This building allows you to store up to 3 goods, and also allows you to place a barrel onto a full ship. This doesn’t count as shipping (for Harbor), and technically according to the actual rules of the building, only one barrel can be placed onto each full ship, so placement alternates between two players who have the building, starting from the Captain and moving clockwise. In practice, only one player ever has this building per game, so there has never been a fight. It may be that someday I will eventually just change the rule to allow multiple barrels in the “Hold”, which may be more in keeping with the spirit of the game.
Factory I used to think this was slightly overpowered, but not anymore.
Harbor In 2 or 3 players this building is ALWAYS replaced with Large Business, which gives you bonus Captain and Builder privileges. But in 4 or 5 player, Harbor is ok.
Large General Workhouse University has to go, of course, even if you let it come with a colonist. Actually,University at 7 and with a colonist was too strong, without a colonist too weak. Dumb building anyway. This building is a violet building but functions as a wild production building, allowing you to produce up to 2 of anything along with matching plantations. It is pretty powerful, and still doesn’t get bought much, because the price is right. I made a huge mistake not buying it this game, buying Coffee when I could afford it, but not producing it anyway for so long, that I should have waited to buy this.
Wharf Balanced.
Cathedral I have a list of random large buildings I use to replace Guild Hall, which is always bought first, so stultifies strategy. This one gives you 1 VP for every 3 red building VPs.
Fashion District Not to be confused with its smaller cousin, this one is worth 5 red VPs, and gives +2 per indigo plantation, up to a maximum of +8. Residence leaves when Hacienda is out of the game.
Fortress
Custom’s House
City Hall

I recommend to one and all to give these a try. This one is a tad heavily favored towards the indigo player, but a corn player won anyway, so there you go.

Round Player Phase Notes
1 N Settler N:quarry, J:coffee, R:indigo, Y:tobacco. There was one coffee and two tobaccos. I was to maintain a coffee monopoly throughout the game, and Y a tobacco monopoly.
J Builder J:Civil Office (Craftsman), R:Large Indigo, Y:Civil Office (Builder), N:- . In the spirit of experimentation I decided to try Craftsman as my phase, hoping it would give me more barrels, since I figured not to produce much. I forgot that when you don’t produce much, you don’t take Craftsman. Huge mistake. I used it once, and to my ultimate detriment. Builder, Trader, Captain, or Prospector are better choices. Even Mayor or Settler. Craftsman would make a good choice if I was a corn starter.
R Mayor Y mans the Civil Office instead of his corn.
Y Prospector
2 J Trader+
R Craftsman+ R is the only one producing.
Y Captain+
N Builder N:Small Sugar, J:Small Indigo, R:Aqueduct, Y:- . N is eyeing the three sugar plantations in the draw.
3 R Prospector+
Y Builder Y:Tobacco Storage, N:Small Indigo, J:Small Fashion District, R:Small Fashion District.
N Mayor+
J Settler+ J:quarry, R:sugar, Y:tobacco, N:sugar. There is a real lack of corn for the first half of the game.
4 Y Mayor Y is now producing 2 tobacco and a corn. N is producing sugar, J is producing indigo with a Small Fashion District, R is producing lots of indigo and corn.
N Craftsman+
J Trader+ J is happy to trade indigo for 5 GP. Y trades tobacco, N trades sugar.
R Captain+ Tobacco ship starts, R is otherwise way ahead in VPs.
5 N Builder+ N:Harbor, J:Coffee Roaster, R:-, Y:-. I was one shy of Large General Workhouse, and I should have waited.
J Prospector+
R Settler+ R:quarry, Y:corn, N:corn, J:sugar. Actually, it is more fair to say that I was lacking corn for a long time.
Y Craftsman Y is looking at boats locked with VP’s for him.
6 J Builder J:Small Sugar, R:-, Y-, N:Small Warehouse.
R Trader+ Selling corn.
Y Captain+
N Mayor+ N mans Harbor and Small Warehouse.
7 R Trader R now sells indigo with the Small Fashion District. Nadine trades sugar.
Y Craftsman+
N Captain
J Mayor I’m colonist shy.
8 Y Builder+ Y:Harbor, N:-, J:-, R:Large Sugar.
N Settler++ N:quarry, J:corn, R:indigo, Y:sugar. It is about this time that I started thinking about Factory, but it was already getting late and I had a coffee monopoly, and I figured I wasn’t going to get more than two big buildings anyway.
J Prospector++
R Mayor R now producing fistfuls of indigo, sugar and corn.
9 N Craftsman+ Everyone is crafting except me, and I have the building for it.
J Trader+ J trades coffee, Y trades tobacco. Can’t argue with that, however.
R Captain+
Y Builder Y:Small Sugar, N:Large Indigo, J:City Hall, R:Discretionary Hold. I don’t know what the Large Indigo was about. Discretionary Hold works well.
10 J Trader J trades coffee, N trades indigo.
R Mayor+ R mans Discretionary Hold
Y Prospector+
N Builder N:Large Market. Seems like a lot of building going on.
11 R Settler++ R:indigo, Y:tobacco, N:coffee, J:coffee.
Y Captain+
N Builder N:Coffee Roaster. Again N takes builder and noone else builds.
J Craftsman+ Taken mostly so that I can say I’ve used my Civil Office once this game.
12 Y Trader+
N Mayor+
J Captain Why did I do that? Why?
R Prospector+
13 N Captain Ships one good, because she has Harbor and to establish a boat.
J Builder+ J:Fortress, R:-, Y:Custom’s House, N:- .
R Settler+ R:quarry, Y:corn, N:corn, J:corn . R sets herself up to buy one of the last big buildings.
Y Craftsman+
14 J Trader+
R Builder R:Fashion District, Y:Small Warehouse, N:-, J:- . N and I both have 9. I know that she will buy the last building before me, so I should just start buying small buildings, but I wait a round.
Y Captain R uses Discretionary Hold on all boats.
N Prospector+
15 R Settler+ R gets an indigo to max out Fashion District, Y:corn, N:corn, J:whatever.
Y Mayor++ This Mayor comes before the last two buildings are built on my board. Y and N both overlook the fact that they need to man their large buildings. In Y’s case, he misses it completely. In N’s case, she takes a VP lucrative Captain next round instead of Mayor, gaining a lot, but losing a lot by not maning her building. It was actually an oversight on both of their parts, and cost them each 6 VP.
N Builder N:Cathedral, J:Factory, R:Hospice, Y:-
J Prospector Anything but Craftsman or Captain. I have 12 VP, and want the game to end with Builder next round before any more shipping happens.
16 Y Craftsman+ Y and N produce all of the corn.
N Captain Unfortunately for Y, he is locked out of all shipping, as N fills a corn boat, J starts coffee, R starts indigo, and Y has nothing but corn, sugar and tobacco.
J Builder J:Hospice, R:?, Y:?, N:Tobacco Storage
R Settler

Final count:

  • N: 27 shipping + 20 building = 47
  • J: 12 shipping + 21 building + 11 bonus = 44
  • R: 33 shipping + 16 building + 8 bonus = 57
  • Y:27 shipping + 16 building = 43

San Juan

Jon 38, Nadine 36, Yitzchak 35

Note how often I prospect or build in the following game. All of my early cards were not immediately useful, so I built for the future. It turned out ok.

Jon Yitzchak Nadine
Role Building Role Building Role Building
Pp Tower B Tobacco C Smithy
B Well Pp C
Pp Pr B Silver
Pp T (11222) Pr
Pp B Quarry T (12233)
Pp Library C Aqueduct B Carpenter
Pp Aqueduct B Market Stand Pr Tobacco
Pp T (11122) B Trading Post
B Silver Pp Pr
Pp B Tobacco T (12223)
C Indigo B Carpenter Pr Tower
B City Hall Pp T (11223) Palace
C B Guild Hall Pr Prefecture
Pp Hero T City Hall B Victory Column
Pp T Pr
B Guild Hall Pp Silver C Triumphal Arch
Pp Tobacco B Sugar C
Indigo Indigo B Hero

Tikal

Yitzchak’s first time, and he seemed to be doing quite well. Unfortunately, our Tikal game was interrupted, as I mentioned above.


Mar 16, 2005

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Nadine, Yitzchak, Elijah

Yitzchak returns after a two week hiatus. Welcome back. I wanted to introduce Go, but neither Saarya or Nadine were interested.

Checkers

Saarya+, Jon-

So instead, while waiting to start, I challenge Saarya to a game of Checkers, which I promptly resign after about 4 moves when he double jumps me and I can’t jump him back.

San Juan

Jon 39, Nadine 37

In an exception that proves the rule, I win with one fewer large buildings, but just barely, despite a much more developed board.

Round Roles Jon build Nadine build Notes
1 (J) B – Pp – C Prefecture An early Prefecture is godlike in two player, better than library, as it is two cards cheaper. Nadine has no answer.
2 (N) B – Pp – C Quarry Nadine favors Quarry. She starts with lots of good cards, and has to throw them away. I take Prospector, leaving Nadine nothing useful to do but Councelor, which is better for me.
3 (J) B – Pr – Pp Silver Prefecture My Councelor monopoly ends. I think the Pr was a mistake on Nadine’s part, as it also helps me more.
4 (N) C – B – Pp Quarry
5 (J) T – B – C Smithy Coffee
6 (N) Pr – B – T Market Hall I’m now two buildings ahead.
7 (J) C – B – Pr Coffee Carpenter
8 (N) C – T – Pp We are both over hand limits, and not overly concerned
9 (J) C – B – Pp Tower Silver I rarely build Tower, but I haven’t seen a 6 point building, yet, and I produce enough to make use of it.
10 (N) Pr – C – B Guild Hall City Hall I Councel a 6 pointer finally.
11 (J) Pr – T – B City Hall Guild Hall
12 (N) Pr – T – B Hero Palace I never see Palace, so I build the best I can.
13 (J) C – T – Pp I could have ended the game, but I give it one more round.
14 (N) B Silver Hero

Othello

Saarya 40, Yitzchak 24

Yitzchak shows up during SJ, so Saarya and he play a game of Othello (which I took out to teach Go). Saarya won the first corner, and easily converted the rest of the sides to his advantage.

Princes of Florence

Elijah 52, Saarya 51, Jon 49, Yitzchak 49, Nadine 44

Very wierd how a game can go slow, and still be interesting. Lots of thiking, not much action, yet still captivating. We all played pretty well – no professions left over at th end, most auctions valued well. Still, a careless move here or there, a sudden fight over an auction item, and the tides turn.

This was Elijah’s first game – he understood and played quite well. It looked like he was not going to win, with a slight early lead which usually means that a player is going to run out of steam with no professions left to play. Saarya, in the meantime, was playing straight with 4 great works to play in the last rounds, on top of 2 others gained from Recruiting cards. At the end of the day, with competeition for Jesters high, the Builder/Prestige strategy eked out a victory.

Player Auction Action 1 Action 2 Results
1 Saarya Recruiter – 1000 Profession Opinion We play that each player chooses 1 profession card out of 2, that you can only choose on the first round, and that the last one is thrown out. This prevents any undue advantage to players 1 and 2
Yitzchak Jester – 1200 Profession Religion
Nadine Forest – 200 Profession Opinion
Elijah Builder – 700 Profession Travel
Jon Lake – 200 Profession Travel

2 Saarya Lake – 200 Travel Theater (+3PP) It looks like Yitzchak and I are doing fine. Nadine’s 1400 for a Recruiter is a lot, but they are really almost as good as Jesters in 5 player. Elijahs second builder is key for him.
Yitzchak Forest – 200 Tower (+3PP) P20 (16 WV, +2PP, +3PP bonus)
Nadine Recruiter – 1400 Bonus P11 (11 WV, +0PP)
Elijah Builder – 800 (+3PP) Laboratory (+3PP) P17 (11 WV, +1PP)
Jon Jester – 1300 Workshop (+3PP) P7 (16 WV, +0PP, +3PP bonus)

3 Saarya Builder – 200 Religion P19 (15 WV, +0PP, +3PP bonus) Nadine’s Bonus cards are a formidible threat for best work in later rounds. I try to get early Prestige cards.
Yitzchak Recruiter – 1100 Bonus Travel
Nadine Jester – 1200 Bonus Bonus
Elijah Forest – 200 Hospital (+3PP) P?? (14 WV, +2PP)
Jon Prestige – 200 Bonus Religion

4 Saarya Recruiter – 1300 Laboratory (+3PP) P5 (16 WV, +3PP)
Yitzchak Lake – 200 Bonus P1+Bonus (WV 16, +2PP)
Nadine Park – 200 P8+Bonus (WV 17, +1PP, +3PP bonus) Bonus
Elijah Jester – 1100 Studio (+3PP) Religion
Jon Prestige – 200 Bonus Bonus

5 Saarya Jester – 900 Chapel (+3PP) Bonus Saarya, with 4 professions left to play, needs Jesters the most. Yitzchak gets a steal on a Recruiter. I need exactly a builder, forest, and park to make my prestige cards work. I don’t know yet that I’m doomed. I want the builder early, since I have free actions to use up, and I want to use them to build. Profession 6 is first played, and then recruited some 4 times in the following rounds. Yitzchak is again frustrated from best work. Nadine is getting landscapes for her bonus cards.
Yitzchak Recruiter – 500 Laboratory (+3PP) P6+Bonus (WV 22, +5PP)
Nadine Lake – 200 Hospital (+3PP) P16+Bonus (WV 23, +9PP, +3 bonus)
Elijah Prestige – 200 Bonus P14 (WV 16, +2PP)
Jon Builder – 500 Studio (+3PP) P15+Bonus (WV 20, +5PP)

6 Saarya Forest – 200 (-2PP) P6 (WV 18, +8PP) P21 (WV 18, +9PP) Saarya starts the cavalcade of professions. Nadine buys a Park for her bonus cards, and totally screws up one of my prestige cards. I buy a lake for the pp’s, and because I need at least two landscapes for the other prestige card. I would have fought Saarya more for the forest had I known there would be such competition for the Park. Elijah buys 2 bonus cards to pack a punch in the last round.
Yitzchak Jester – 500 P6 (WV 20, +9PP) Library (+3PP)
Nadine Park – 800 (+3PP) P5+Bonus (WV 17, +5PP) Opera (+3PP)
Elijah Prestige – 600 Bonus Bonus
Jon Lake – 200 (+3PP) University (+3PP) P2+Bonusx2 (WV 21, +10PP, +3PP bonus)

7 Saarya Jester – 200 (-2PP) P6 (WV 20, +10PP) P18 (WV 23, +11PP) Elijah whoops out a best work, and then plays three prestige cards, two for full value, and one for half, to eke out a victory we all thought would be Saarya’s.
Yitzchak Lake – 200 (+3PP) P4 (WV 17, +8PP) P10 (WV 20, +10PP)
Nadine Park – 200 (+3PP) P13+Bonus (WV 23, +11PP) pass
Elijah Prestige – 300 Opera (-2PP) (+3PP) P12+Bonusx3 (WV 28, +14PP, +3PP bonus)
Jon Forest – 300 Bonus P9+Bonus (WV 20, +10PP)

Prestige cards: Elijah +16PP, Jon +7PP

Geschenkt

Jon 34, Yitzchak 60, Elijah 63

Jon 41, Elijah 41, Saarya 44, Yitzchak 53

Saarya 12, Jon 28, Yitzchak 34, Elijah 44

A game to wrap up as people leave. In the first game I pulled two cards to inside straights. In the last game, Saarya ended with the ever popular 33,34,35 combo and no other cards.


Mar 09, 2005

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Nadine, Elijah, Ran, David K, Eitan, Ephrayim

This week we hosted our first ASL contingent, as Ran, David, Eitan, and Ephrayim came solely to play ASL. Ran is the ASL guru – he came to teach. David K has SL experience, and was excited to play ASL. Eitan, my son, has been looking for a long time to find a wargame worth playing and opponents worth playing against. Ephrayim used to come to our club, but he was really only interested in wargames, and when none of us were interested in playing wargames, he eventually dropped out. I thought Ran and he would make a good match.

ASL

Ran, David, Eitan, Ephrayim

The game took about 2 hours of explanations – this is after David’s familiarity with SL and Eitan’s having read parts of the rulebook over the last few weeks. Then they played at about the same speed as the rail game – about one round per hour, with 9 hours supposed to be the end of the game.

Ephrayim seemed to decide that it was just too complicated to learn a new game, but he hopes Ran will come see some of his simpler games, such as Panzerblitz, etc… Eitan and David had a good time, although David’s German army did a good job of trashing Eitan’s American defenders. Ephrayim watched, and Ran acted as rules explainer as the game went on (“+1 for the trees, -1 for CX, +1 for moving, but his squad is broken, and this machine gun has a rusty trigger, so -1 for …”)

I made one comment: Eitan asked if he could move freely through a hex with a foxhole, and he was told that he wasn’t in the foxhole, just running around it. I said that this is like Just Visiting, and not actually in Jail. That got a laugh from David (“Everything I need to know about ASL I learned from playing Monopoly.” 🙂 ).

They ended the game somewhere in turn 5, when it Got Late.

Web of Power

Jon 58, Nadine 40, Saarya 37, Elijah 35

I decided that this would make a nice game to try again, seeing as we only have it for a while. Nadine liked the simple rules but complicated scoring. There’s nothing to do during other player’s turns, but the game is supposed to be quick enough that it doesn’t matter. Our pace was rather plodding, however. Eventually we moved a little quicker, except that Elijah continued to forget to pick after every turn (and took one very long think on the last round of the game), and Saarya continued to not pay attention until I told him it was his turn.

Scores after the first socring round were very close, all within 4 points of each other. I found myself crowded on the northeast corner of the board. Nadine was also in the east, but a little more scattered, Saarya in the big center, and Elijah on the west and southeast.

Saarya ended up with 10 points in paths and one nice Advisor link, and Nadine also had one nice advisor link. Luckily for me, I was left with 4 great advisor links in my little corner, netting me 24 points.

One complaint: the advisors are little cylanders that keep falling down and rolling off the table. They coudn’t have made them square? Note to game designers: make sure the pieces can’t roll of the table.

Settlers of Catan

Jon 12, Nadine/Saarya 5, Elijah 3

We hadn’t played this in a while, but Saarya didn’t really want to play, so he teamed with Nadine. This made me confused, as I kept expecting Nadine to roll the dice after Saarya, when it was my turn. I took a central position, and quickly got the best spots on the board. Elijah’s initial position was very problematic, and he rarely got anything besides wheat and brick. Then Saarya beat him to his first settlement, the brick harbor, and Elijah didn’t have much of a chance after that. I also got lucky with the robber, not losing much, and blocking a critical ore hex from both of them a few times.

I ended the game on my turn with 2 cities and a vp development card all bought in one turn.

Traumfabrik

Nadine 102, Jon 96, Elijah 48

Elijah requested this, and Nadine was willing to stay for it, but Saarya was busy helping a friend with a computer problem on the telephone. I started out with a good start, with a 15 point first purple movie, also good enough for best movie. By second round, I also had a 17 pointer and best movie again. Nadine still had no points by the end of the second round.

At the end of the third round, Nadine finally had one movie, a 21 point movie that took best picture. And then she ended with worst movie, and most of the contracts. Even without the contracts she was 86 to my 80. Nadine didn’t seem to play with a strategy, except getting worst movie, and neither of us expected her to win. This is similar to Avraham’s comment last time we played. Either there is something fundamentally wrong with the game, or there is a lot more luck then there seems, or we simply don’t understand the strategy, yet.

Nadine adds:

My overall strategy was the same as everyone’s – get good pieces without paying too much, put them in the best place. As we all get better at understanding the movie placement it seemed that would make the bidding matter more. But there are limits to both, you can’t control the bidding regularly because of the even distribution of contracts, and you can’t control what’s available on the board, you have to work with what you can get. Jon did a much better job than I did of planning, bidding for and getting useful pieces. I forgot that it’s important to finish movies early in order to get more movies, so I ended up with a lot of pieces that I couldn’t use. But part of my strategy was to wait and get pieces I wanted rather than rushing, which also gave me lots of contracts for when I did want something, so it’s not that I didn’t have a strategy, but I wasn’t playing well, and Jon’s strategy was a better one. So Jon is right about a lot of luck, or something. But I need those kinds of games sometimes when I’m not up to winning strategically.

Geschenkt

Jon 41, Saarya 63, Elijah 104

Jon 30, Saarya 61, Elijah 74

Saarya 33, Jon 37, Elijah 74

Jon 32, Elijah 45, Saarya 32

Nothing terribly notable in these games, except that each game’s win was using a different strategy. Sometimes with only two high cards and nothing else, sometimes by a long run of middle or low cards. There is no set winning strategy, here.

Also notable was game 3, where I took a total of 15 cards, one after the other, all between 7 and 20. Unfortunately, there was just a tad too much in the way of holes.

See you next week.


Mar 02, 2005

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

Tonight was a slow night – Nadine and Elijah were our only two “out-of-house” guests. And with the start of the Tel Aviv group, I suppose I won’t be getting any Tel Aviv players out here on the odd night, at least until game day. I have to start thinking of how to get new blood. With few people, all of whom have distinct ideas of what they will play and what they will not play, it was almost impossible to have any game at all, unless we split into 2 2-player games.

Puerto Rico + expansions

Jon 48, Rachel 44, Nadine 43, Elijah 39

With only 5 people, and Rachel around, a good time to rope her in for a game of PR. Saarya didn’t want to play, so we played 4 player while Saarya web surfed.

Buildings:

  • Aqueduct
  • Civil Office – When you buy Civil Office, pick a phase (even before it is manned). You get double the privilege for that phase whenever you take that phase. A unique and interesting building to play.
  • Small Fashion District – Sell indigo at +2 GP. Removing Small Market from the game, and adding this building, really helps the indigo players, without unbalancing too much.
  • Small Warehouse
  • Hospice – You can move a colonist onto Hospice when you buy it. The change strengthens Hospice just enough to make it worth buying.
  • Trading Post – Note that Small Fashion District also doesn’t apply using TP.
  • Large Market
  • Discretionary Hold – Store up to three additional goods. You may place 1 barrel of any type onto any full ship for 1 extra VP. This is the best 6 cost building I have. Small Wharf is not strong enough to be worth it. Specialization Wharf, which is a wharf for only one good type, is a bit strong.
  • Factory
  • Large General Workhouse – 2 circles. Produce any goods along with the corresponding manned plantations. You can choose different goods each time you produce. A slightly over-strong building, but not enough to unbalance the game. Strangely enough, not bought this game, although I considered it.
  • Large Business – Pay one less per building. Earn 1 VP if you ship at least one type of goods.I.e. Builder and Captain privileges. A much more balanced building than Harbor for 2 or 3 players. Not strictly necessary in 4 players, but just as good.
  • Wharf
  • Governor’s Hall – 6 points. +4 VP if you have any colonists in San Juan. An interesting strategy to fulfill.
  • Reserves – +2 VP per type of goods on your board. Another interesting strategy, which makes your last shipping a trade-off. Best bet is to ship and then craft at the end of the game.
  • Fortress
  • Custom’s House
  • City Hall

Here is the play:

    1. N: Settler. N:Quarry, E:Indigo, J:Sugar, R:Corn. E is going for Aqueduct. J is going to produce early sugar. R wants some early VP’s.
    2. E: Builder. E:Large Indigo, J:Small Sugar, R:Small Sugar, N:passes.
    3. J: Mayor.
    4. R: Prospector.
    1. E: MayorE ends up losing out on building, due to an overly heavy shipping strategy.
    2. J: CaptainJ is happy if someone takes Trader, and happy if left Craftsman with 2 GP.
    3. R: CraftsmanR now tries to convince N to take Trader, to prevent J from getting it with 2 GP.
    4. N: Trader.
    1. J: Builder. J:Civil Office (Builder), R:passes, N:Small Indigo, E:AqueductJ choosesBuilder, as this is a GP benefit phase, and his opponents can either take it to prevent him from taking it, leaving him lots of GPs on other phases, or let him take it. E will soon be producing 4 indigos a turn.
    2. R: Prospector.
    3. N: Settler.
    4. E: Mayor.
    1. R: CaptainR gets to ship her 3 corn.
    2. N: Craftsman.
    3. E: Builder. E:Civil Office (Mayor), J:Hospice, R:Small Indigo, N:passes. E is looking to get lots of colonists to use two of the big buildings, but he never gets enough money to buy them. Jon thinks long and hard about Hospice, and gets it because he can immediately use it to get a manned quarry.
    4. J: Settler. J:quarry, R:coffee, N:tobacco, E:sugar.
    1. N: TraderWith 2 GP on it.
    2. E: Captain.
    3. J: Prospector.
    4. R: Builder. R:Coffee Roaster, N:Tobacco Storage, E:passes, J:passes.
    1. E: MayorWith 2 GP on it
    2. J: SettlerJ gets another quarry
    3. R: Craftsman.
    4. N: Trader. Trades tobacco, and no one else can trade.
    1. J: Builder. J:Large Business, R:passes, N:Large Business, E:Small Fashion DistrictJ almost buys a Large General Workhouse. his 8 cost building only cost me 4 GP.
    2. R: Trader. Trades coffee, N trades tobacco.
    3. N: CaptainE is already shipping 4 indigo.
    4. E: Mayor.
    1. R: Builder. R:Factory, N:Small Sugar, E:passes, J:Tobacco StorageN’s build is free, and J’s costs 2 GP. R’s Factory is a good build for her, and would have helped J a lot, too.
    2. N: ProspectorWith 2 GP on it.
    3. E: Settler.
    4. J: Captain.
    1. N: CraftsmanWith 2 GP on it.
    2. E: TraderE trades indigo at 4 GP, +1 for Trader, and no one else can trade.
    3. J: Captain.
    4. R: Mayor.
    1. E: Builder. E:Wharf, J:passes, R:Discretionary Hold, N:City HallE has already dumped goods, and doesn’t want to do that again.
    2. J: SettlerJ gets another quarry and GP, so he can afford a big building next time.
    3. R: Trader.
    4. N: Mayor.
    1. J: ProspectorWith 2 GP on it.
    2. R: Craftsman.
    3. N: Captain.
    4. E: BuilderE finally gets a Sugar Mill.
    1. R: TraderR traded coffee some five or six times this game.
    2. N: Mayor.
    3. E: SettlerBoth R and J have numerous corns, one indigo and sugar, and one other good. E has 4 indigo, 4 sugar, and a corn. N has tobacco and one corn and/or sugar.
    4. J: Builder. J:Custom’s House, R:passes, N:Small Warehouse, E:passes.
    1. N: CraftsmanN helps everyone else at least as much as herself, here.
    2. E: Captain.
    3. J: ProspectorTurns out that the game ends next round, before J can build another big building.
    4. R: Builder. R:Reserves, N:Small Fashion District, E:passes, J:Indigo Plant.Reserves is at cross-purposes with Discretionary Hold, but either one will work.
    1. E: Mayor.
    2. J: SettlerJ gets another quarry and GP, so he can afford a big building, but never gets to use it.
    3. R: Craftsman.
    4. N: CaptainGame ends by victory points.

Final standings:

  • Jon: 25 shipping + 17 building + 6 bonus building = 48 points.
  • Rachel: 24 shipping + 14 building + 6 bonus building = 44 points.
  • Nadine: 22 shipping + 16 building + 5 bonus building = 43 points.
  • Elijah: 29 shipping + 10 building + 0 bonus building = 39 points.

Hansa

Jon, Nadine, Saarya, Elijah

I played this 2 player with Saarya and though it was ok, and worth trying multiplayer. I thought it was still good, maybe better, but my fellow players really didn’t like it. There is nothing to do while you are waiting for your turn, and you can’t plan much in advance, since you have no control over what the situation will be by the time it gets back to you. Add to this that the turns are repetitive and not escalatory, which means that you don’t feel that you are building anything for a big payoff later. Whatever you build will be worn away within a round or two. They quit about halfway through.

San Juan

Nadine 43, Jon 41

I really thought I was winning this one, but Nadine pulled out all four big buildings by the end of the game, which slightly trumped my three. I stated with a Prefecture and Counseled most of the game, while Nadine started with a silver on round 2, and produced a whole lot. She then got Quarry/Carpenter, while I had Smithy.

Nadine Jon
Indigo Indigo
Silver Prefecture
Quarry Gold Mine
Carpenter Smithy
Trading Post Tobacco
Gold Mine Market Hall
Market Stand Silver
Palace Guild Hall
Triumphal Arch City Hall
Hero Palace
City Hall Silver
Guild Hall Indigo

Next week I hope to have a table of wargamers playing ASL, at least. Spread the word, if you know someone who plays, or who wants to learn, bring ’em over. And don’t forget your snacks.


Feb 23, 2005

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Yitzchak, Ben, Elijah, Gilad

Saarya was away at a wedding, Daniel has been called back to yeshivah to learn every night for the forseeable future, Rachel was teaching in Beit Shemesh, and David and Avraham weren’t here this week.

Instead, Ben dropped by with Cosmic Encounter, by request. Also, Gilad, the current organizer of a small central game group in Reut, soon to be large Tel Aviv game group, dropped in to meet our gang. Gilad is a nice guy, and a good sport. He also brought over two games to look at: Kardinal and Koenig, also known as Web of Power, and Hansa. Hansa we didn’t get to play, but WoP we did.

Geschenkt

Elijah 0, Jon 24, Yitzchak 30, Nadine 39

We started with a regular multiplayer quickie, while waiting for the stragglers to show up. Elijah took the first card, 35, with about twenty tokens on it, and then wrapped it up by taking every card from 28 to 35, and 28 tokens to boot, netting him a perfect score of 0.

I took only one card the entire game, the 26, but I only ended up with 2 stones.

Cosmic Encounter

Ben 5, Gilad 4*, Yitzchak 4, Jon 4, Nadine 4, Elijah 1

Introducing Gilad to the great joy of CE (we play Mayfair CE and More CE), as well as being the second or third time for Yitzchak, Nadine and Elijah. The game was just complicated enough without being frustrating – exactly where I like it.

In order to do this, I insisted on taking out the reverse cones which, in my opinion, make the end game and alliances, which are key to the game, uninteresting. When you have several players sitting with 4 bases, and you get a reverse cone, it means that noone can ally with either player, and the game tends to end with a dull thud.

I would like to play that way from now on.

Another change we play, and have always played: the desitny pile determines the system you are attacking, but not the player. This can sometimes drag out the game, but the standard rules make the game kind of short, and somewhat less tactical. And another: when you toss your hand, keep your flares and draw seven new cards. This puts a little magic back into the flares that was removed from the original Eon rules. Some other rule changes as well, most of which didn’t appear.

We dealt out single powers to everyone and then switched some around and tossed some to make sure each player didn’t have one too complicated or unbalanced. Powers:

  • Jon played Seeker (ask one yes/no question each round to a main player). I enjoy the complex mediocre powers, and this is a near perfect example of it. My questions ranged from “will you play any flares this round?” to “do you think that you have a good hand?” Towards the end of the game I got the Wild Aristocrat, which lets you pick any card from the deck. I chose the Wild Pentaform, which allows you to discard your power, pick two more, and choose one. One choice was the Warrior, totally useless at end game. The other was the Diplomat (allows you to make deals with both main players if you are not one), which was perfect for a game ending with most players having 4 bases.
  • Nadine had Vampire (defeated tokens are turned over and become yours). This was the feared power, so we either avoided attacking her, won at all costs, or sunk her pieces into the Warp to encourage her to play a Mobius Tubes if she ever got one. She only got to use the power once towards the end of the game, where it was helpful, since most of her pieces were in the warp and she really needed more.
  • Elijah played the Delegator (if you are ally or main player, you select who is the main player on each side of the cone among allies and main players), which was, unfortunately not a good pick for him. He played it ok, and he used it sometimes to his benefit, and sometimes just for chaos purposes. Unfortunatley, he made quite a few enemies this way. He quickly lost invitations to ally, unless it was to that player’s benefit to have him use his power, and he could be convinced to use it as such.
  • Yitzchak player the Healer (prevent others from going to the warp, gain one card per player). In Eon, the benefit was one card per token – big difference. This version was nice, but not great. While he didn’t have the most pieces in the warp, he sure has a lot, but he had the second nicest hand in the meantime. I didn’t think it would be Yitzchak’s style to play this, but I think he enjoyed the power trip that came with it 🙂 .
  • Gilad had the straightforward Anti-Matter (lower total wins, opps tokens are added to his card, all other tokens, including all allies, are subtracted from the cards). With so many allies in six players, I feared it might be weak, but it turned out to be fairly strong, giving a 5 or 7 point advantage almost every time.
  • Ben played Aristocrat (1. select your starting hand from the deck. 2. discard a flare and pick a flare each time you are main player.) This turned out to the the real force of the game, as Ben picked all flares from the deck, and then drew seven cards (keeping the flares), and then allied defensively, giving him the killer hand to take victory.

Gilad started, and I think we made it around exactly three times, which is better than last time when the player going last won without ever having a turn (Parasite). Yitzchak took a quick lead, but everything balanced out until all of us, except Elijah, had four bases. I got my Diplomat and tried to end the game but got zapped each time. Last play, Ben took Gilad onto a double victory, first zapping Elijah, then Cloning the card and zapping me. Then, after the outcome of the last battle, he played Vaccum, eliminating one of Gilad’s bases, and winning a solo victory after all. A perfect diabolical ending.

It was in the last stages of the game where I knew how good it was that the reverse cones were out of the game. I think I could tolerate the Solar Wind edict, as long as it was changed to be able to be played after cards are flipped, instead of at the beginning of the round as it currently works.

Web of Power

Yitzchak 67, Jon 48, Gilad 46, Nadine 41

Introducing to all of us a lovely game that I had heard was a light version of El Grande, and it is. It is great to find relatively quick games that still have great depth, for more than 2 players. Initial impressions put it in the Ra category of weight. Also, I would compare its gameplay to Taj Mahal – very simple mechanics each round, with tough decisions and limited actions each turn.

The object of WoP is to get the most VPs, of course. The board is a lot like Taj Mahal, with nine provinces like El Grande. Provinces are connected to each other by “Taler links” (let’s call them). In each province is space for four to eight cities. Cities are conected, like Taj Mahal, by “City links”.

Each player has two types of pieces: cities and talers. Cities go on city spaces. Talers go in the middle of the province. Each province can only hold as many talers as the number of cities already built by the player who has the most cities in that province. So if I have 3 cities and Ben has 2 cities in a province, there can be no more than 3 talers total in that province.

Each player has three cards in his hand, and all cards name one or two provinces. During your turn, you play cards and place pieces according to the cards you played. You can only place pieces into one province per turn, and you can place no more than two pieces per turn, either cities or talers. If you have two cards of the right province, you can use them. Otherwise, any two matching cards can be used for any one province card that you want.

So, for instance, if you hand has cards A, B, and C, you can only play in one place: A, B, or C. If you have A, B, and B, you can either play in A and A (using the A card, and both B’s as wild), or B and B (using both B’s), or C (using both B’s as wild). Of course, you could also just play once in A or B, too.

So basically, you play one, two or three cards, put down one or two items into a province, and then draw back up to three. Wash rinse repeat. When the deck is exhausted, all players complete their turns and then you score one scoring mechanism – cities only. After the deck is exhausted twice, you score all three scoring mechanisms, which are:

  • If you have the most, or tied for most number of cities in a province, you score for all cities actually placed into that province. If you have second most, then you score the number of cities placed by the player with the most. If you have third, the number placed by the second. Etc… What this means, is that if three players all have one city, they each score three. If one player has 6 cities, and you have 1, the first player scores 7, and you score 6. This mechanism is the only one used during the first scoring round, and is repeated during the second scoring round.
  • The second scoring is for city paths. Any path of four or more cities of one player scores the length of the path. This only scores during the second scoring round.
  • The third scoring is the taler paths. There are fifteen taler paths between provinces. Any player with the most, or tied for most, talers on both sides of any link scores for the number of talers on both sides. There is no second place scoring for talers. This scoring is only during the second scoring round.

One play is not enough to grasp the patterns of the game play. However, it was very, very good. There is always a tradeoff: adding cities to a province might give some lurker the ability to place only one city and get almost as many points as you did. Also, placing more cities means allowing other players to add talers. But you can’t add more talers until you have more cities. You need to play both at one for maximum effect. Only, you only have 8 talers to use for the whole game.

At the end of the day, Gilad left us Hansa, and I loaned him Torres. After he left we realized that he also left Web of Power. I promised to return it asap – I was hoping to go tomorrow to his group in Reut. I hope my decision is not swayed by wanting to keep WoP longer 🙂 .

Yitzchak began by completely monopolizing a small inner province, and Nadine took a large province to herself. Since we were newcomers, we didn’t realize that a single city in that province would be so lucrative until too late. Gilad played a taler heavy strategy, which lost out since he didn’t score twice for the cities. Howvever, Nadine only had cities in two provinces. Yitzchak score reasonably for all types, lots of second places and several talers and roadways, so ended up winning.


Feb 16, 2005

Participants: Jon, Saarya, David K, Avraham, Nadine, Yitzchak, Michael, Elijah

Magic: the Gathering

Jon 20, David 0

Stop, hold the presses! I win my first game against David Klein is about, oh, 15 years. I would like to announce my retirement from Magic. I have decided to never play again.

Well, all right.

David and I do a Rochester draft, taking 20 cards of each color and “artifacts/golds/special lands” for a pool of 120 cards. Then I remove 30 at random and we draft the remaining 90. I construct a reasonable black, red, blue deck, pulling out the right mana just when I need it. David, OTOH, only gets one of his two colors (red/green), and can’t play any cards.

Result: Luck 1, Skill 0.

David 9, Avraham 0

I go to eat dinner, while Avraham and David continue, Avraham playing my drafted deck.

Result: Luck 1, SKill 1.

David 17/9, Jon 7/0, Avraham 0/0

Later in the evening we played a three player game of Magic. Your job is to kill both of your opponents. You keep track of how much life each of your opponents has, and when both are down to zero, you win. You don’t leave the game, even if both of your opponent’s have killed you. In this game, attacking leaves you vulnerable to two counterattacks, albeit the losses are taken from two different pools of life.

Without much time, we took the 120 cards from before and dealt each player 40 to draft with. We all constructed 3 color decks, and, by round six, both Av and Dav have 2 lands of each color, while I have 4 black and two blue (no reds). Still, I do reasonably well, until David draws a Winter Blast.

Result: Luck 2, Skill 1.

Is it possible that there is just too much luck in this game when decks are drawn from a random pool of cards?

San Juan

Michaal 35, Elijah 18

Michael and Elijah played a waiting game of San Juan until Yitzchak and Nadine came.

Railroads of Catan

David 31,200, Saarya 23,700, Jon 22,100, Avraham 17,800

Yeah! Enough people to break out a RRoC game. The board is a mixed up SoC board, with cities placed on hexes. This was the first play using my new, slightly tweaked rules (see on my site). The basic game is – start with $15,000:

  1. Pay maintenance of 1/10 value for all items.
  2. Blind bid for turn order.
  3. Select roles (such as Conductor: free movement on all rails, Engineer: build rails at half price).
  4. Flip delivery orders. Older delivery orders gain extra cash.
  5. Build rails and trains. Rails $1000, $2000 through mountains or over water. Train segments cost $5000 (new), $8000 (upgrade).
  6. Run rails and trains, delivering goods and delivery orders.
  7. Check for game end.

This is a long game, like most rail games. Each round, you have to plan where your rails are going to go, how much you will be spending, how much you will be making. You have to decide the cost of buying goods, running trains, achieving the delivery orders (which are huge: if you go first, you can get several), and simply buying and selling goods. Avraham compared the complexity to Civilization. It is all right out there, but it is so complicated that it is hard to hold in your head.

Nevertheless, he and David said that they really enjoyed it, but it was, perhaps, too much. Suggestions included making the rail connections more difficult and eliminating all of the deliveries, except for the delivery orders. To do that, I would have to make the first mover less huge. I could also limit everyone to one train, each segment adding to it’s features.

Anyway, a game can last seven rounds, but it can also end earlier if someone connects his cities, which is what Saarya did, ending the game after only three rounds. Altogether, including a practice round, the game lasted about three hours.

First round, Saarya took first mover and the role that let him build rails at half price, which was perfect for him, as he built several through mountains. Then I took Banker (10% of my cash), Avraham took Conductor (move freely) and David the role that let him build extra tracks. David and I took early delivery orders, but Saarya set up a sweet double city, delivering ore to a city for $3000 a pop. Nice.

Next round, Avraham jumped up with a huge bid for first mover, which game him first crack at delivery orders, beating me to a good one. Note: my first iteration of the rules had each player with private delivery orders. The next one had us auctioning delivery orders. This version has each player simply taking the delivery order when he makes a delivery. The first method had a large luck problem – but that was partially because the value of the delivery orders was variable. The second one was long and tedious. This one make going first a huge advantage. Reducing each player to only one train apiece might solve it.

I went second, but could not get a single delivery order done, but was in good shape to get one next round. Meanwhile, David and Saarya took some more.

Third round I bid big for first, which gave me the DO I wanted, but Saarya ended up connecting all of his cities. After the dust settled, David K was in front by a large margin (which didn’t surprise anyone), and Saarya’s lucrative ore sales gave him second.

Amun Re

Nadine 44, Yitzchak 37, Elijah 31, Michael 21

Michael’s first play. I didn’t hear much about this one, except for the middle scores: Nadine 16, Elijah 15, Michael 13, Yitzchak 12. They has fun, and played from about 7:15 until 10:30. (we have a pretty slow playing game group).

Oceania

Jon 16, David 8

I taught David K, and played my third game, still expecting to grow bored of it, since it is so simple. Luck is large, but somehow I keep finding new things to do. This time, I used the “automatically fill in closed areas” rule to full extent by exploring one tile length away from an area, placing my scout, and then filling in the spot.

The game board grew into one very large continent, with two side continents. I managed to finally close the continent, which allowed me to place the one more scout I need to control it, which was also my last. David took the two side continents, and I ended up with two unplayed tiles, reducing my score from 20 to 16.

Traumfabrik

Avraham 77, Jon 75, Saarya 73, David 54

I taught David and Avraham how to play, since we needed something not too long, and a change of pace from RRoC. David reacted about as expected – simple and nice – while Avraham didn’t really like it, as he didn’t understand what he had done to win the game. I played my usual poor game, but luckily took best (*) (18) and worst movie (2) in the last season. David had best movie for a while at 17, but nothing else. Avraham has a solid portfolio of movies and best in green and yellow. Saarya, as usual, had most star power most of the game, and had best directors. Most of the movies were 10 to 12 points, except Avraham’s, two of which were 14 and 15, I believe.

* As someone pointed out on BGG, I have been playing with yet one more rule mistake. There is no Best Movie at the end of the game. Only best in all three colors, worst movie, and best directors. Argh.

Another Wed, another game night.


Feb 09, 2005

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Daniel, Yehudah P, Michael, Elijah, Nadine, Rachel A

Back in my apt this week, as the gang wanted their meat, and we really couldn’t think of any advantage of playing in the cafe until they have other groups interested. I asked them to contact me if they do.

Michael, Elijah’s father, has been free to come the last few weeks. I am still relating to him as “Elijah’s father”. It would be good to play a game with just him, while Elijah plays in the other game, so we can get to know him directly.

Also, Yehudah Porat, a guy who played Magic, and RPG, and stuff with me many years ago (sorry, only vague memories), came by, brought by Daniel. Welcome, Yehudah. He has played Settlers and Cities, so he knows something, and of course he is a gamer type, so he picks up rules quickly. I’ll spell his name with an “h” to distinguish him from my name: “Jon”.

There was a lot of shushing this evening; I think some of us just have loud voices, and the table has two games going, so it is important to try to keep a discreet level of noise. Also, as I pointed out during the game: with newcomers it is good to give solid rules explanations (one person at a time). However, let the new players figure out the strategies on their own, aside from basic concepts and absolutely stupid moves which indicate a lack of rules knowledge.

San Juan

Jon 33, Daniel 27, Yehudah 22

Daniel and Yehudah came a little early, so Daniel explained San Juan to Yehudah while I finished dinner, and then we played three way. I started off with an early production strategy, and just kept at it all game, getting Traders House, Acqueduct, and Well and cheap production buildings. This put the pressure on others to build, hence the low scores. I tossed out all City Halls, waiting for an eventual Guild Hall, and at the last moment, Palace.

Daniel built towards City Hall, playing it as his last build, even though we knew he couldn’t catch me by that point. Yehudah played a learning game.

Dvonn

Michael 29, Elijah 14

Actually, I don’t think you keep score in Dvonn, but that’s the scores they told me.

Michael and Elijah came while we were playing SJ, so they played a side game of Dvonn waiting for us to finish.

Nadine also showed up, but rather than play a side game with Saarya, Saarya tried to show her magic tricks. I think I need a few more two player games.

El Grande

Saarya 137, Nadine 130, Yehudah 126, Daniel 97

We haven’t played El Grande in a while, which is a shame, so I brought it out. Saarya always wants to play the K&I expansion, but with a new player and a player who has only played once, I had to disappoint him again. Maybe on shabbat.

I didn’t follow the game closely. At the end of the first scoring, Saarya and Nadine were ahead 37 and 36, and the others were both at 27. By the end of the second scoring, Saarya was at 99, Nadine and Yehuda at 88 and 89, and Daniel was trailing badly. I surmised that this was probably due to Daniel’s uncontrollable urge to “cause chaos” at the expense of winning, on occasion, and El Grande provides just such opportunities (my guess was confirmed by the other players).

Torres

Jon 264, Michael 228, Elijah 213

Elijah has played Tikal already, and fairly successfully, so I started him and Michael on Torres. Everyone did well by the first scoring round: I scored 37, Michael 38, and Elijah 37 moving to 39. I thought I was in for a rough ride. However, Michael blew some early cards, and Elijah didn’t play enough of them, and then I stole the top position in Michael’s tower and kept raising it until it was 10×10, keeping the others out. Elijah was able to completely lock up third round king scoring, but this was not enough to help him. I expect much tougher competition next time.

Gechenkt

Elijah 6, Michael 52, Jon 74

Elijah and Michael only had 30 minutes. Elijah wanted to teach Michael how to play Geschenkt, so onto the table it came, and Elijah promptly gave us a whoop down, pulling inside straights 11 through 21 …

Elijah 41, Michael 68, Jon 73

… and then doing it again (or something similar). Sheesh.

Yehudah 28, Saarya 28, Daniel, 61

Later in the evening, we taught Yehudah, and this game was played to a tie score.

Taj Mahal

Daniel 83, Saarya 52, Yehudah 45

Unusual to be able to play several meaty games all in one night, but we all played pretty quickly, so it can be done.

Daniel has a history of winning this game, much like Nadine acquired a history for winning El Grande, and Rachel for Puerto Rico. Daniel’s main line of attack until now has been palace connections, mainly because everyone else always fights over elephants.

This time, since Saarya and Yehudah knew this, the fought over connections, leaving Daniel to scoop up the elephants. As the saying goes: “Wise man know: two players fight over Longest Road, third man win.” Taj Mahal is one long battle over Longest Road.

At the end of round 4, scores were: Yehudah 16, Daniel 12, Saarya 7. Yehudah was heading toward hand burnout big-time, and that’s what happened. By round 9, scores were: Yehudah 33, Daniel 45, Saarya 15. I assume that Saarya was being thwarted by Yehudah at most opportunities, which hurt them both.

Puerto Rico + expansions

Rachel 55, Jon 53, Nadine 46

Rachel and I almost always play with some variation of the following set, now:

  • Aqueduct:Lg Ind and Lg Sug produce extra goods (sometimes Assembly Line:all prod buildings have extra space)
  • Small Fashion District:Sell indigo at +2
  • Hacienda (somtimes Surveyors Office:pick any plantation from supply)
  • Small Warehouse
  • Hospice:plantations come pre-filled. May move colonists onto Hospice when buying
  • Large Market
  • Trading Post (in two player, something else, like ChurchOffice, or something wierder.Exchange House:swap a good with Trading House at end of Trading phase, is a bit powerful, but also sometimes used)
  • Discretionary Hold:store up to 3 goods, and may ship 1 barrel extra into the Hold of any full ship. Sometimes we play Small Wharf:ship any goods to supply for 1 VP/2 barrels, orSpecialization Wharf:prime SW with one of your barrels, you have wharf of that good type.)
  • Factory (sometimes Super Market:sell at +3)
  • Large General Workhouse (2 circles):produce any goods with corresponding plantations. LGW can be very powerful. It’s natural enemy is Exchange House, but EH is a bit powerful, also. Still it is not unbeatable.
  • Large Business:gain captain’s and builder’s privileges (+1 VP if ship at least once, -1 all buildings)
  • Wharf
  • All big buildings, except Guild Hall, for which we substitute various others, such as Capitol(+1/3 points in red building vp’s)

Which is what we played. I was second, and Rachel started out with Settler/quarry, leaving me sugar, and Nadine coffee. I looked and looked and looked and finally decided to go with an unusual Aqueduct strategy, I produced a heck of a lot of it, but I could almost never trade it, since Rachel deliberately blocked up the TH with sugars. I had trouble shipping it, since Nadine and Rachel together locked boats and kept trading coffee and tobacco before I could force them to ship enough to clear the boat. Blah. Even so, I still scored ok.

Nadine took Large Gen Warehouse, but never produced tobacco with it, only coffee and sugar. Producing the sugar slowed down the coffee boats. She also took Trading Post, to slow down the Trading House.

Rachel took Hospice, a building I fear she has been creaming me with quite often. I don’t know if it is because we play 2 player or 3 player so there is always something useful for her to pick, or that the added momentum of moving a colonist onto it when you buy it really makes it worthwhile, but she uses it well. She quickly picked up a few corns and then tobacco and Factory, the latter which I was slowing down due to sugar hoarding. Eventually she got Discretionary Hold, and shipped a few extra goods even when she was locked out of shipping.

Both Nadine and Rachel took two big buildings, and I was lucky to get the one I did, although a Wharf would have been even nicer.

So when can we play Railroads of Catan, again? How about my other game, Adaptations of Catan?


Feb 02, 2005

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Daniel, Yitzchak, Liat, Shmuel, Sam, Elijah

Tonight’s session was unusual for many reasons.

First of all, two weeks ago we were invited to play in the basement cafe of a local bed and breakfast, Little House in Baka’a, and this week we decided to try them out. So I trudged the few blocks with a backpack and plastic bag full of games, while Daniel met us there with other games he had borrowed.

You go through a bar like area into a basement square room, with a dozen small tables about the right size to play Go. They didn’t know what we wanted, so several arrangements had been made: 6 tables pushed together, 2 tables together, and the rest singles.

Also this week, Daniel brought a friend – Shmuel – who is obviously a nineties gamer, as he brought several Munchkins and Grave Robbers From Outer Space. Yitzchak brought a friend – Liat – who spoke Hebrew but understood English. She played Amun Re, but didn’t look too comfortable, so I’m not sure she’ll be back. I also brought someone new – Sam – the head of the Jerusalem Go club, and also the owner of the Israeli Go web site. More on him later.

The staff came in after a little while in wanting to sell us dinner. Since they approached me, I don’t know what our obligations are, but we ended up ordering a variety of items. I wonder what they expect of us.

I need feedback from people to assess whether this is the way to go. Here are some positives and negatives:

Positives

  • Bigger space
  • Food available any time
  • Liable to be more public (not really, though, we’re not talking downtown or even street level)
  • Publicity in advetisement

Negatives

  • Have to shlepp games to the place, and back
  • Can’t order what food we want (like meat), and their food is a trifle expensive. No bringing snacks.
  • Feel obliged to spent money
  • People left without paying bill!
  • Bad cell phone reception for some of us

Comments?

Attika

Jon+, Saarya

Having heard good things about this, I felt obliged to try it with Saarya as two player. I can’t comment on multi-player, but 2 player was one of the most dull experiences I have ever had. Saarya even compared it unfavorably to Oasis which he hated.

Basically, you either flip and build buildings, build buildings, or draw cards. Most buildings cost very little or nothing to play. As Saarya pointed out early, it was very unlikely that either of us would connect two enpoints, so one of us was going to have to build all their buildings.

There must be something more to the game. I just put down buildings, drew new ones, occasionally blocked a route for Saarya. Ho hum.

In addition, while many games include a few additional components, Attika really suffered in lacking components. There is no way to keep track of what you’ve already built, if you’ve completed a set of buildings, and the graphics on the tokens are pretty, but indistinguishable from a distance. Simple color coding would work better.

Somewhere amid fighting for building spaces and some real threat of connecting endpoints there must be a game, but none of that happened.

Amun Re

Yitzchak 44, Liat 38, Daniel 37, Shmuel 27

An introductory game for Shmuel and Liat. I think we have driven numerous people away using Amun Re an an intro game. Let’s stop doing that, ok?

Midgame scores were: Shmuel 13, Yitzchak 12, Daniel and Liat 11. I don’t know what happened to Shmuel in the middle – most likely over-spent in the first half. I just read a session report from someone else who said that the winner bought no pyramids at all during the first three rounds. Something to think about.

Tikal

Saarya 113, Jon 104, Elijah 97

I thought this was mine, but Saarya really took control of temples in mid game, and overshot me in the final scoring round. I had most treasures – not quite enough. Elijah played conservatively, and made impressive gains in the last two rounds as well, gaining 40 points on my lead. Thinking went on too long, however. When I start getting distracted, it becomes less engaging to play.

Go

Sam+, Jon

Sam joined us while I was playing Tikal, so I split into a parallel game of Go on a 9×9 board with him. Sam is a good Go player (not dan level yet, but whatever). I would like to influence our own members to learn Go, but also to influence him to other things. Still, I was nervous he would find other games silly.

Go is just a great game. Unlike chess, it is wide open, instead of narrow and focussed, so you can have good feelings about little battles. Chess requires massive memorizing of standard plays. Go requires recognizing different completion patterns, something much easier to acquire, and in fact, can be learned through experience relatively qickly. You’re not going to win against the deep thinkers so quickly, but you can make progress. And Go has a natural built in handicap system which really works, so any two players can enjoy a game, no matter what their level.

Even with a 2 stone advantage on a 9×9 board, I quickly lost control of the center and edges, only keeping a single side of the board at the end.

Pente x 12

Jon 7, Sam 2

On the other hand, I got to teach him Pente, which he really liked. Now I was the one who knew the patterns better. Pente still surprises me at being a good game, when I expect it to simply be solved for the first player.

I won a few games before he caught onto all of the implications of the capturing rule.

Daniel 4, Jon 1

Later, Daniel trounced me while I was finishing a game of San Juan on the side, taking 4 games to my 1. Last time we played it was the reverse, so I’m sure he feels vindicated.

Grave Robbers From Outer Space

Daniel 15, Yitzchak 0, Shmuel -15

Don’t know, and not really that interested. Another in the line of Munchkin, Chez Geek, etc… silly card games.

San Juan

Saarya 40, Sam 37, Jon 32

After softening Sam up with Pente, I decided to try San Juan as a gateway game, and it seemed to work pretty well. I think he was enjoying himself. It is a pleasure to find someone new who listens and thinks about what he’s doing. He did quite well for a new player, beating my poor showing. Saarya built early Prefecture and Library, and pulled all the 6 pointers he needed.

Next week … where?


Jan 26, 2005

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Rachel A, Michael, Elijah, David K, Avraham, Yitzchak

I received a call from the manager of a local coffee shop who saw my ad in the paper and was interested in having us play there on a regular basis. He would get more business, I guess, and we would get more exposure. I ran this by the group, but couldn’t get a clear consensus until late in the day, so we will aim to try this next week.

Michael, Elijah’s father, is free for the next couple of weeks, and is concerned about him playing in a public space (still not entirely sure why, but not my call). Yitzchak and Ben are concerned with the lack of meat in the coffee shop (no burgers).

This week we play several new games, as I loaned, and borrowed, a bunch from the Tel Aviv group. The TA group is also about 8 people, but they are all informal, call each other up once a week or so, and meet or not as they feel. No results, no web site, no session reports. Tsk tsk.

Dvonn

Micahel +, Elijah –

The first game is Dvonn. Dvonn is one of the six games of the GIPF project, a modern project to create 6 quality abstract games whose pieces can be merged to form other games. The production value is very high, and the games are quite good for abstract games, if you like a high degree of chaos. They are all two player games.

Dvonn is the fourth game. In Dvonn, the board consists of an elongated hexagon with five rows. Each player has 23 pieces, and there are 3 red pieces. The pieces ae placed onto the board alternately. Each player may then move any piece, or stack of pieces whose top piece is their color, in a straight line exactly the number of spaces in the stack. The piece or stack must land on another stack.

As the moving progresses, the larger stacks become harder to move, but still easy to take over. There are a few other rules. One major one is that all pieces on the board must trace a path to a red piece. If they can’t, they are immediately removed from the board. The winner is the player whose remaining stacks, after no more moves are possible, contain the most pieces.

I suppose you have to play a number of times to understand how to play the second part of the game, moving the pieces, but essentially it comes down to who has the most pieces threatening the biggest stacks. The first part of the game, placing the pieces, will take much longer to grasp. I suppose you could form divisions to destroy whole sections of the board, or create more liberties for your pieces, but it seems highly unlikely to gain a huge advantage in this part.

Michael and Elijah arrived first, and played a quick game, with Michael ending victorious at some high number to 2.

Like other interesting abstracts, I would be pleased to play several games to see what is going on if I had a partner.

Attika

Avraham +, David K, Michael, Elijah

The second borrowed game is Attika, hailed as the second coming of Settlers of Catan, in that it is supposed to be relatively easy, and a resource building game, but still fun and replayable. I didn’t get to play, as you see, so I wouldn’t know.

In this game, you have a set of buildings to place onto a series of hexes containing resources. You can spend actions acquiring and placing buildings, or just placing buildings, or taking resources, or some combination. When placed in a certain order, the buildings are free. The object is to connect to locations on the board with a line of buildings, or to place all of your buildings.

Anyone who played care to comment?

Oasis

Saarya 197, Jon 193, Yitzchak 110

Oasis is the third game. This game is something like Torres as far as tile placement goes. There are 3 different types of tiles: oasis, steppes, and rock, as well as camels. You have four counters to indicate the territories you own, and then you add tiles to your area, or you place camels. There are also four different types of special tokens, corresponding to the land tiles and the camels. Your score is your land area or camels times the amount of tokens you have that correspond to each area. So if you have 8 steppes, and 4 special steppe tokens, you score 32 for your steppes.

So how do you acquire tiles and tokens? Each player has cards that signify tiles and tokens that another player can take from the bank if they fork over their special token indicating turn order. The cards are turned up at random, but you can choose whether to turn up 1, 2, or 3 cards. Then first player gives whomever turns up the best offer his first player token and takes the turned up cards from that player. Each card is worth 2 land tiles, or two tokens, etc… You may not buy your own turned up cards unless you have no choice. The second player follows suit, etc… Having the first player token at the end of a round gives you a free tile or camel.

This kind of thing makes the game somewhat random, but the slightly worse part is, as we expected, three player is somewhat rote bidding. What happens is that first player always offers only 1 card. Second and third player offer better cards. Generally, first player will take player 3’s offering, leaving player 2 no choice but to take player 1’s measly one card, and player 3 to take player 2’s more generous offering. Very occasionally player 1 will take player 2’s offering, giving player 2 a choice.

The game plays itself a bit, like Torres does from midgame onwards. However, for all that, I found the game amusing, like I find Torres amusing. Definitely worth a try with 4 or 5 players, instead of 3. Another negative of 3 players is that there is not much competition for space on the board.

I amassed a wealth of special steppe tokens (7), and built many steppes (15). Saarya snuck up on me with heavy oasis (9) and oasis special tokens (6), and 19 camels with spice tokens (camel specials – he had 5).

We left the game with me winning at 195, Saarya at 188, and Yitzchak at 110. After sitting down to write this session report, I am sad to say that every one of the scores was added incorrectly, and Saarya has emerged as the actual winner (bully for Saarya, sad for my math abilities).

Tikal

Avraham 107, David 100, Jon 93

Love teaching new games. First time players David and Avraham walked over me in this lovely and pretty game. I was playing dual games Tikal and Puerto Rico, so I misbid some early tiles and lost out on some healthy point growth. David took oodles of treasures, but Avraham took the top temples. I was slightly behind Avraham is both treasures and temples. Right before midgame scoring I was up some 20 points, but after the scoring Avraham was ahead of me 3 points. Seeing as how this means he was bound to make 20 points more than me at least two more times indicates how far I was behind. Catching up as much as I did says something, and the game ended much closer than I expected.

Settlers of Catan

Elijah 10, Michael 4, Saarya 3

Pathetic showing from Elijah’s opponents here. Elijah won with Largest Army, Longest Road, and at least 1 VP card.

Puerto Rico

Rachel 55, Jon, 54, Yitzchak 53

Changes: a) may move colonist onto Hospice when buying, b) University comes with colonist on it, c) Small Wharf instead of Large Warehouse.

Rachel was back, so we played her (only) favorite game. I played splitting my attention between PR and Tikal. Yitzchak had early Harbor, Rachel early Factory. I had tons of corn and coffee and a sm warehouse, so I just kept crafting. Unfortunately, sometimes you get distracted from the goal, and I took a Mayor midgame when I should have just kept crafting and shipping. Yitchak got lucky, filling in his two big buildings on the last round of play.

Rachel 54, Yitzchak 46, Saarya 42

Rachel has inherited the title of Queen of Puerto Rico, racking up yet another decisive victory.

Next week, see you in the coffee shop. I am trying to attract other game groups, such as the Go and Chess groups to join us.


Jan 19, 2005

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Yitzchak, Daniel, Elijah, Rachel A, Alberto

Alberto is a nice gentleman who called and came over to see what the club is all about. He has no history of gaming of any sort (not even bridge, etc…) He gamely sat through 3/4 of a game of Traumfabrik, and excused himself saying that this is not for him. He did want to learn bridge, however, so I pointed out a few locations he could learn, for which he was thankful.

Otherwise, I made a few rules errors this evening, so sue me.

Flink Pinke

Jon, Saarya, Daniel, Yitzchak

I thought I would try this ultra-simple Knizia game, but unfortunately I messed up the rules.

The game is supposed to be: a deck of 5 colors, numbered 0 to 6 in each, and 5 chips of each color in the middle. Each round you play a card and take any chip of any color. The game ends when the last card is played in one suit.

Unfortunately, I mistakenly thought: game ends when last chip taken in one color. As Daniel pointed out, first player will invariably win this way.

Even with the right rules, I can’t see much of a game here, but I would be willing to try it one more time.

Traumfabrik

Yitzchak 92, Saarya 56, Daniel 53, Elijah 40, Jon/Alberto 39

Here I made another major rules mistake. I forgot that a newly won item can be placed over another item of the same type so long as the movie isn’t yet complete. Ugh. Lack of this rule made several auctions near the end worthless for a number of players.

I again started out with the first major director (trying for most director stars), Daniel with first yellow movie, followed by Saarya with first green. I was going for best movie and best directors. Saarya again went for best actors. I won three of the auctions for best directors, but that killed me for almost any other auction, and I was rightfully dead last, completing only three poor movies. Saarya maintained a stranglehold on best actors throughout the game, gaining prime benefit from all of the parties.

Meanwhile, Yitzchak quietly built best movie (18) during the second season, and basically stole the game with 48 points from that movie alone (3 best movies (5,5,10), best green movie(10), and the 18 points from the movie).

Daniel found himself in the last season with 4 (yes, 4) passes to him for a block of chips that included 2 contracts, which he happily took for a bid of 1 (another rule mistake, you can bid 0?), netting him 2 completed movies for a gain of 1 contract. He also took in worst movie.

And BTW, I think we forgot to award best director, anyway.

Taj Mahal

Daniel 64, Jon 37, Saarya 30, Yitzchak 29, Elijah 18

Daniel continued his rousingly successful strategy of connecting provinces, scoring up to ten connections at the end of the game. Saarya was also connection oriented, but was thwarted too frequently. Daniel should have been thwarted more frequently, but the cards and play just didn’t work out that way, and I failed to attempt an 11th round thwart when I should have. I probably wouldn’t have won anyway, but it would have been much closer.

Meanwhile, Elijah, Yitzchak, and I went for commodities, but Elijah fought, and lost, almost every province, and Yitzchak was no match since he was to Elijah’s right, whereas I was to his left, and therefore benefitted more from his withdrawals.

Here is a scoresheet (* = withdrew without playing):

Round Daniel Saarya Yitzchak Elijah Jon
6 14 (4 connections) 7 16 (3 jewels) 6 11
7 17 10 16 6* 17
8 22 17 23 6 17*
9 25 19 23 7 23
10 31 21 23 10 25
11 43 21 23* 14 33
12 57 26 23* 14 33
Final 64 30 29 18 37

Geschenkt

Elijah 13, Jon 16, Yitzchak 43, Saarya 45, Daniel 57

Elijah only had a few minutes before he had to leave, so we played Geschenkt. Actually, I play this with two rules “incorrect” also: 1) that tokens are revealed, instead of hidden. No problem trying it that way a few times, but I doubt it will make much difference. It would matter only when you know you want to take a card, but don’t know whether to send it around again. 2) That the player after the one who takes a card starts bidding on the next card, instead of the player who won the card. I think the original rule is a terrible rule, and we even tried it once and thought it was a terrible rule. It means that if you run out of tokens, you eat every other card in the deck, which is just silly. I suppose it could mean that everyone will have to take cards more frequently, which could only make more randomness and less control. Yuck.

Elijah started with an early 16, followed by me with a 10, and Daniel with a (too) early 34. Daniel eventually saw a 35 and a 32, but no 33, and not enough tokens to make up for it. Saarya took a middle road and got a big mess, and Yitzchak had almost no tokens for most of the game, which made everyone else have to take cards with fewer tokens than they would have liked.

In the end, Elijah has two straights, all in the teens, which beat my two straights at 10 and 24.

Settlers of Catan

Daniel 10, Yitzchak 9, Saarya 7, Jon 7

The old adage: “Two people fight over longest road, third person win” was true here. Actually, three people fighting over it let Daniel walk away to victory.

He was the only one buying developement cards, and three at a time at that, since he got 4 sheep and 2 ore for each 6 rolled.

The most productive spot on the board: 8, 5, 10, wasn’t grabbed until my 2nd placement as 2nd player. I understand the first two settlements on brick, since brick was only 4, 11, and 3 in the game. But I really don’t know why it took until 7th settlement for that one. It was very nice for me too, being on wood and ore, when my first settlement was on sheep, wheat, and brick.

Saarya started off with an awful position, only 9, 10, and 11, but with some help got back in the running. At one point, he was so far behind that I traded him a sheep and brick for his brick, just to prevent him from trading with any of my opponents. A little wierd. Yitzchak lost the opportunity to win at least twice, as he was dividing his attention playing both SoC and San Jan at the same time.

In the meantime, Yitzchak pulled Longest Road first, when he forgot that he couldn’t place his settlement only one edge away from mine. Then, before he culd build, I swooped in three roads and plopped my settlement down on his road, stealing longest road. Eventually, Saarya took it, then Yitzchak again. Note that the three of us ended with 7 points each, and a longest road swapping around.

We kept track of dice rolls during the game:

Roll Count
2 1
3 1
4 5
5 1
6 11
7 1
8 11
9 3
10 4
11 4
12 1

Yes children, 7 was rolled only once, and at mid to late game. Nobody had to toss anything, but I did block an 8 for one round (4 wheats to Yitzchak, and 2 to Saarya).

San Juan

Yitzchak, Rachel

Rachel would have liked to play Puerto Rico, but Daniel won’t play it, so Yitzchak tried to divide his time between both SoC and SJ and lost SoC because of it. I don’t know the final outcome of SJ, but I believe Yitzchak won.

See you next week.


Jan 12, 2005

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Nadine, Elijah, Daniel, Ben, Naomi

Welcome back Ben, who only comes occasionally, since Weds aren’t good for him. And welcome to Naomi, one of many who have called in recent weeks, but the first to actually make it, for half the evening, at least. Naomi has played the usual games, Cranium, etc.. but has also played Carcassonne. She hails from New Zeland.

Geschenkt

Ben 26, Saarya 30, Nadine 37, Jon 59, Elijah 74

We start off with a filler, waiting for Daniel. Ben’s first time, so of course he won. He seemed to enjoy his first game, although in subsequent games I think he started feeling the luck factor more.

Nadine 12, Daniel 14, Jon 17, Ben 23, Elijah 26, Saarya 43

Lovely little game, scales well to six. I gave each player 9 tokens, and took out only 8 cards. Still, I felt that it was pretty easy to pass up a dozen cards in a row without much loss of tokens, compared to 5 players.

Daniel 7, Nadine 20, Ben 47, Elijah 81

This game was played later in the evening, when Nadine and Elijah were just about on their way out. Obviously Ben’s luck has deteriorated by this point.

Taj Mahal

Jon 57, Saarya 51, Nadine 42

After the first two Geshenkt games, we split into two meaty games of three players each. This was one of them.

Taj Mahal is a difficult and wonderful game, with three, four, or five players. It seems to me, although less obvious to my opponents, that you have to withdraw without playing cards at least once or twice, or you just can’t expect to make headway.

I tried to keep better notes this game. Here is the progression:

Round Jon Nadine Saarya Notes
1 Elephants Yellow Orange, Green
2 Elephants Purple, Yellow Green, Blue Pretty obviously, I am heading towards commodities. Saarya decided to head for connections, since Daniel always takes that and wins. Nadine got the early yellow +2 card for an early point lead. She will also try fighting me for commodities, but it will be an uphill race by the time she gets started.
The first two provences were lower left.
3 Orange, Green, Elephants Purple Blue, Yellow Lower right
4 (early withdrawal) Yellow, Orange, Purple, Elephants Blue, Green Upper right
Scores –> 7 18 5 Nadine has a nice lead, but her hand is spent, and she does not have any cascading bonuses to keep up momentum, unlike me (commodities), and Saarya (connections). I am also building my hand for turns 6, 7 and 8.
5 (early withdrawal) – (lost) Orange, Green, Blue, Yellow, Elephants 5, 6 and 7 were all middle right, or lower right, i.e. surrounding provinces 3 and 4, which is good for Saarya.
6 Elephants, Orange Purple Blue, Yellow My hand is basically all green cards, two white cards and two orange cards. By obtaining the orange bonus card (play any color backed card), my entire hand is at my disposal. Unfortunately, I only keep this card for one round.
7 Yellow, Elephants Orange, Blue Purple Nadine can’t take my elephants, but takes my orange bonus card. The drawback of an elephant strategy is a lack of bonus cards.
8 Elephants, Yellow – (lost) Purple, Blue Upper middle left. I score 14 points this round from my taj mahal and commodities. Saarya has just about every province connected. One of the drawbacks of connecting is that you can’t affiord to withdraw early from any rounds.
Scores –> 34 26 27 Saarya had a lead until round 8.
9 (early withdrawal) Green Blue, Yellow Middle middle left (south of 8). I had the yellow card for one round, but didn’t get a chance to use it. I am down to one colored card, so I withdraw early for two more rounds, hoping to win the last two rounds with enough to keep me in the lead.
10 (early withdrawal) Green Elephants, Purple, Yellow Upper left (west of 8). Saarya needs one taj mahal desperately in province 11 to score enough to overtake me.
11 Elephants, Purple, Orange, Green Yellow, Blue – (lost) Middle left. Unfortunately for Saarya, I didn’t realize that Saarya only had one card left in his hand, and my first card cancelled his. He was forced to withdraw without his 11 points, leaving me about seven points ahead.
12 Purple Elephants, Green, Blue Orange I withdrew early, since I didn’t need the last commodities to keep in first. My hand and the 5 points from first taj mahal gave me enough lead.

The critical decision is: do I play a card that cancels my opponent’s card, thus possibly getting more and depriving him of more? If so, he may come back with a card since he will feel there is nothing to lose, and we enter a protracted battle, benefiting neither of us. Or, do I play so as to encourage my opponent’s withdrawal by letting him have one or two things, so long as he leaves me something in return?

Amun Re

Ben 38+, Daniel 38-, Elijah 35

A close game again, with another loss by pyramids. Ben complined very early on (turn one) that he was out of the running, no point playing, etc… For the record:

Round Daniel Elijah Ben
1 Mendes Thebes Kharga
2 Berenike Edfu Abydos
3 Memphis Damahar Baharya
Scores –> 18 21 9
Memphis now has 3.67 pyramids
4 Avaris Abydos Mendes
5 Amarna Berenike Baharya
6 Sarna Buto Memphis

And having secured Memphis, the other two tried their best, but could not beat the vast pyramid empire.

San Juan

Jon 42, Nadine 33

Played while waiting for Naomi to arrive. Saarya wanted to play Evo, and Nadine was even willing, but I wanted something shorter. Saarya didn’t want to play SJ, so Nadine and I played two player.

I built Coffee first turn, followed by Nadine’s Councelor, and my Production. Very unusually, prospector was not taken at all until late game, and only about twice the whole game. I dropped a lot of early production buildings, then tower, and ended up at one point with 18 cards in my hand before a build. I councelled as much a I could to get the six pointers, and ended with all three best ones. Nadine had Trading House and Aqueduct, but, again, too many low point count cards to catch up.

Settlers of Catan

Naomi 10, Saarya 6, Daniel 3

A first time player win in SoC is always a good thing. However, we were trying to show her how these are games of skill. Naomi started on both 6s (wheat and ore) and then half of the dice rolls in the game were 6s, sometimes 3, 4, or 5 rolls in a row. City, city, city. 4 development cards, soldier, soldier, soldier. That wraps up the last 6 rounds of the game.

Daniel started with a ridiculous brick port (off a 4) and brick on 8, 4, 3 (same 4), with no expansion room.

Abalone

Jon, Ben

While waiting for Rachel to get back from the store (she ended up forgetting that we were waiting), I introduced Ben to Abalone. After 4 marbles are off the board, it is pretty hard to do anything, but I snuck up on Ben in a corner and knocked his remaining marbles off on the turn before he would take out mine.

Boggle

Jon, Naomi, Daniel

We could have wrapped up with Geschenkt, but Naomi loves Boggle, and I haven’t played in so long, so I decided to bring it out. Man, we all felt really rusty, but eventually the ink started flowing.

Well, Naomi left and I forgot to get either phone or email, so I hope she calls back (after all, we let her win 🙂 ). See you next week.


Jan 05, 2005

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

A nice evening to start the new year with.

Traumfabrik

Saarya 90, Jon 81, Elijah 65, Yitzchak 58

And we start the new year off with a first time play of Traumfabrik. Traumfabrik is one of the numerous Knizia auction games; he seems to have developed the definitive sense of how to do these right, and this one is done right. Like Ra (also Knizia) and many other new auction games, the basic system is always: tiles flipped up in groups, worth differing amounts to each player as the game progresses, earlier rounds score less than later rounds but are crucial to building a good base, and the tokens used to bid with are recycled back into play and worth points in their own right.

This is probably his most themed straight up auction game, and you can sense how much he must have loved the theme: classic Hollywood movies from the 30s, 40s and 50s.

In this game, we all play Hollywood studios bidding with “contracts” to acquire directors, actors, photography shops, effects shops, etc… in order to make movies. Each movie requires certain slots filled (e.g. King Kong requires effects, but doesn’t really require star actors, whereas some other movie might require actors but no effects). When a movie is completed, you get point counts for the movie equal to the star quality of its components. Each time you finish a movie, you get the opportunity to make more.

So you want to make movies quickly, which means getting lots of tiles. Unfortunately, they may not all fit in your slots, and if you get a lot of tiles, the movie will probably be worth less than getting only one or two of the better star quality tiles. Every time you win an auction, you pay for it with “contracts”. These contracts are divided among the other studios, so they gain more power to your loss. However, unlike the Goa auction, control doesn’t only pass back and forth. Eventually, even if you are losing a lot of auctions, you will be able to win, since you are gaining tithe from every other auction.

Complicating matters are: points awarded for best movie each year, points for first in any of three categories, points for best movie in the three categories, points for best directors of completed movies, first pick of better tiles during biannual Hollywood parties if you have the best actor population, and last, points for worst movie ever made.

All in all, after spending some time figuring it all out, it was a lot of fun. However, like Ra, I’m not sure how long it will keep entertaining. Since I’m still enjoying Ra and Geschenkt, even after some time, probably for a good while. Not top tier, but not everything can be, can it?

I started with my eye on best movie and best directors, which meant I produced fewer movies altogether. Saarya quickly took control of the best actor population, which scored him better choice of other movie components (tiles) at the Hollywod parties. Yitzchak had first movie, and then beat me out to worst movie, only to be trumped later by Elijah. In the end, Saarya’s good across the board movie making, and best movie in at least one category earned him victory.

San Juan

Daniel 45, Nadine 40

Meanwhile, Daniel coopted Nadine into a parallel San Juan game. Daniel ended with two monuments, Chapel with 11 cards, Trimuphal Arch and Palace. Nadine had 3 monuments, Triumphal Arch and City Hall, but City Hall couldn’t beat the fully stocked Chapel.

Rachel 37, Yitzchak 36

A later game of SJ saw Rachel with the win over Yitzchak. No further info on this one.

Geschenkt

Saarya 29, Daniel 57, Nadine 77

Daniel then coopted both Saarya and Nadine into a Geschenkt game, giving Saarya split attention across two games. At the end of this one, Saarya had 5,30-33, Daniel 6-11,21,35, and Nadine 3-4,12-13,15-17,19-20,24,26 . As noticed in several other games, with a bit of luck, high cards can be a good path to victory.

Puerto Rico

Yitzchak 64, Rachel 63, Saarya 58

Parallel to the Tikal game, Rachel came up for her usual PR fix. They played totally straight PR, not even fixes to the buildings. I don’t know what happened, but I know that Harbors were bought early, followed by both Wharves and Factories. Yitzchak has Hospice and Hacienda. In the end, he won by utilizing the combo, which can happen with a liesurely game, which must have been the case, give the high scores.

Tikal

Jon 112, Daniel 94, Elijah/Saarya 88, Nadine 86

Elijah had to go in the middle, so Saarya reluctantly took over. I already had a slight early lead, and this solidified with excessive bidding (IMHO) by other players for tile placement. My analysis is that it is not how many points you can make placing the tile, but how many more you can make placing the tile versus placing a different one (factoring in a number of other items, such as wrecking someone else’s path (almost impossible), taking additional actions before a volcano is placed (critical), access to treasures). With the exception of making sure you play before a volcano, I don’t bid too much. That would change with less players and if someone was running away with treasure points.

My win in this game was also due to placing my tiles in a way that effectively made my areas of the board difficult for others to reach. Daniel ended up doing something similar later on, but by then he had bid himself and/or slipped too far back.

The auction version is definitely better than the random flip version. One thing that bothered us with four player, more so than three or two (although it came up then, too), was that there was simply nothing to do for many of the action points on the last round, or even two or three. I suspect that this either means that we are playing something wrong or that something needs to be tweaked.

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