January to June 2006

June 28, 2006

Participants: Jon, Elijah, Baruch, Brendan, Nate, Guy, Adam, Gili, Nadine, Binyamin, Josh, Yitzchak, Michael, Anna, Ben

Largerer and largerer we get. And odder game selections.

This week’s set of games are showing more crossover appeal. We played some card games and also attempted to play a party game.

Michael and Anna are Elijah’s parents, who came owing to my saying that I hoped to try some party games in the evening. However, I didn’t actually organize this to happen, which was my bad. But with so many people around, I tried to flow people into different games. Baruch is an American son of friends of the Elijah family here in Israel for the summer.

Ben returned and brought Cosmic with him. Ben has also been playing Bridge online with Binyamin, apparently.

Dvonn

Elijah, Baruch

Arriving early, Elijah tried to teach this to Baruch, but he forgot some rules and I’m not sure how it ended.

After this, everyone showed up at once, and we split into three main games.

Santiago

Baruch 88, Jon 79, Nate 66, Adam 66, Gili 65

Let me just start out by saying: I love this game. It is so elegant, the rules appear to be something that were simply carved away, rather than having to be created. The whole rule book is just there to clarify and provide examples for the game. And the game just works so neatly, tense enough to have meaningful decisions, not so tense that you end up with AP or feel frustrated like in Caylus, rewards good play, a bit of luck via randomness, and still gives most players a chance throughout the game. Yummy.

If there is one negative thing to say about the game, it is a theoretical issue with the game play. There is no progressive scoring track during the game, but everyone’s positions are out in the open on the board if you take the time to exactly count them. The “correct” way to play the game is probably to sit and recount all of the scores every round by adding up all of the regions on the board. On the other hand, the gentlemanly thing to do is not to do this but to glance at the board and estimate the relative positions.

To satisfy both types of players, there should really be an optional scorepad provided for those that want to play “correctly”. This will avoid the downtime that these players would take on each of their turns. This is not necessary in an estimating only game, however, which is how we played it.

During the game I remarked how a valid strategy might simply be to not bid or bribe at all during the game, thereby earning a lot of cash, which are equal to victory points. I decided that I might do that next game. In the meantime, that is what Baruch did in this game, earning him the victory. Adam ended with even more money, but a much weaker board position.

Meanwhile, I managed to score the best region scores on the board, although Gili tried to block me a few times. She didn’t try hard enough, however, and I could still outbid her for the rights to place the tiles that I needed. Nate played a middle position strategy, with middle success.

Amun-Re

Binaymin, Yitzchak, Guy, Elijah

This was Binyamin’s first game of Amun-Re, and he enjoyed it. I didn’t get the final scores. Midgame scores had Elijah and Yitzchak tied at 15 and slightly leading Binyamin at 13, but only because Binyamin misunderstood one of the scoring cards, resulting in a 6 points and 10 gold loss. Happens to all of us; the cards could have been printed clearer.

Cosmic Encounter

Nadine (Chronos/Symbiote)+, Ben (Parasite/Assassin), Brendan (Vacumn/Filth), Josh (Insect/Oracle)

Josh found himself with a big target painted on his head by having the Insect in a game with the Filth in it. Everyone was afraid he would Insect the Filth after sharing bases with other players.

But it was the Insect to the Vacumn that caused the biggest upset in the game. “Kamikaze” Brendan and “Stubborn” Josh finally faced each other, double compromised, and failed to reach a deal. Each one then promptly lost three to the warp, and make each other lose three to the warp, and so on, until both had 18 pieces in the warp and were out of the game.

Nadine then waltzed in and won the game, despite Ben’s attempts to stop her.

Elijah (Reserve), Adam (Mind), Guy (Busybody), Nate (Symbiote), Gili (Assassin)

After the first game, I taught the others who had been waiting to play. This was the first game for Adam, Gili, and Nate, and second game for Guy and Elijah. Gili was afraid that it was too late to learn a new game, but she managed to pick it up. The mechanics are actually pretty simple, and each card and power just does what it says, so you don’t have to memorize them. Anyway, winning is almost secondary to playing CE. I don’t know who won, or if anyone won before they had to finish.

Beyond Balderdash

Jon, Brendan, Michael, Anna

Anna and Michael came to try some lighter games. We tried to play this and got through one round before I had to go teach Cosmic. By the time I came back they were playing cards, so we never finished. It is certainly cute, but it requires a bit of writing and energy to keep it going. And it really doesn’t seem all that much better than just playing with a dictionary or encyclopedia.

Bridge

Ben, Binyamin, Michael, Nadine

Hands were played, but I don’t know the results. Rachel walked in while we were playing Hearts and Bridge and couldn’t believe it.

Hearts

Jon (14) + Brendan (22), Josh (14) + Anna (80)

Not just Hearts, but team Hearts, a far superior game – not as good as Bridge, but quite good.

In team Hearts, all card passes go to your opposite teammate. Shooting the moon must still be by a player, not a team. You win when one of your opponents goes over 100 (lowest score, otherwise).

We taught Anna how to play Hearts. She started to pick it up ok, considering this was her first trick-taking game ever. In the meantime, Brendan was having trouble adjusting to playing cooperatively with a teammate. He almost toasted us a few times. I had two hands that were close but not close enough for shooting the moon. One of them was fairly safe anyway, but in the other one I was that close to getting 25 and luckily exited when the correct opponent won my last exit and couldn’t immediately return my long suit.

I ended up tossing the queen to Anna at least three times.


June 21, 2006

Participants: Nadine, Brendan, Elijah, Gili, Adam, Jon, Binyamin, Itamar, Michal

I was indisposed for the earlier part of the evening, so Nadine volunteered to host game night in her house. My indisposal freed up at 8:00 and I arrived just as they were ready to start the main game.

But first, let’s hear from the others:

Nadine writes:

So at the beginning Brendan and I played Fluxx, then Elijah and then Gili joined. Brendan won.

We played Scotland Yard for a few rounds but with only 3 detectives, even though you’re supposed to have 5, Elijah was Mr. X. He did a pretty good job avoiding us, he took taxis the whole time. We stopped when everyone else arrived, conceding to Elijah.

I don’t have any info on New England. Our game [Goldland] was another concession, as you know.

We played Fluxx for a while, then they kept playing and I played bridge with Adam, Itamar and Binyamin. Itamar and I bid 3 spades, made 4 but 3 was the right bid. Itamar did a good job with a finesse. Next hand Binyamin and Adam were trying to bid a slam but stopped at 5 clubs, which was the right bid. Itamar had 2 stopper aces.

Brendan adds:

For those that missed it, a great night was had at Nadine’s last night.

I arrived early, due to the neighbouring cemetery being locked….

We began with Nadine teaching me Fluxx, which I had seen mentioned in a list on Board Game Geek that very afternoon, but knew nothing about. It’s basically a card version of Nomic, and a fun party game.

Gili, Nadine and I then tried to hunt down Elijah in Scotland Yard, but due to some missing pieces, 3 detectives are not enough to surround Mr X and Elijah was having fun toying with us, and proved impossible to catch.

“Ben’s Boys” (and Michal) turned up at this point, and we settled into two games

Once the others arrived Jon, Nadine, Gili, Elijah and I played Goldland which is an exploration-tile game a bit like (Slap-and-)Tikal. We got a few rules wrong for various reasons (Benjamin had two differing translations into English, and some rules are not explicit: bring back SPI-format rules!!) But I thought it was a fun game, if not particularly deep. A party and tile version of “Source of the Nile”.

Jon was not so impressed, partly due to our misinterpretations of a couple of rules that affected him, and partly because some of us took a while to play our turns. This is one game at least where you should get a pretty good idea of what you will do while everyone else has their turns. But our play did drag somewhat leading to big downtime.

I headed straight for the temple to loot it (as one does in archaeological exploration games) and played tiles to impeded the others in their progress. The others seemed to want just to explore locally rather than head for the temple. With 5 players this makes for a slow game, as the game ends either when everyone has visited the temple and looted an amulet, or when the gold runs out (gold is gained each turn by everyone who has visited the temple). As I was the only one who was receiving gold, with 12 gold in the temple reservoir, one per turn going to me, the game would end only 12 turns after my temple visit, which basically meant a fight for adventure tokens by camp building, trying to out-camp each other (!!) on the various adventure tiles. This seems too drawn out. If at least one of the others had visited the temple too, then the gold disappears quicker leading to a faster, more interesting finish.

Jon did comment at the beginning of the game that the rules did not seem to push people in a certain direction, so that the game could be interminable. But if players fully understand the victory conditions, no breakaway leader should result, and the game should be quicker and tighter. So despite the teething problems, I liked it, and would like to play again. Thanks for bringing it Ben!

Meanwhile on the other side of Gotham City… Ben, Michal, Itamar and Adam played New England, which I didn’t follow…

Goldland finishing before New England, my side of the table played Fluxx. Jon “don’t Fluxx with me” Berlinger doesn’t appear to like the randomness, and sat out. It is a random silly game, but a lot of fun too, and a nice way to end an evening. Once we had a basic idea of most of the cards, play is fast and fun. I think Gili won two and Elijah won one too (does anyone else know that silly rhyme?).

New England had by this time ended and a Bridge tournament was begun when the rest of us headed home shortly before midnight.

A fun, social night in a new venue with pizza… thanks Nadine!

Now if I can only encourage Jon to flop out Cosmic next week… or Twister…

**********************************************

One of the things I like about gaming groups is when you sit back during someone else’s turn on your game, and overhear someone on another board say something, which your ears receive completely out of context. It leads to some surreal and hilarious quotes…

Overheard on a Settlers board: “You’re just a brick tease!”

Overheard line from a real-life chemist playing an unknown game: “what’s water for?”

From an American wargame playtesting session “What about the Belgian ferocity rule?”

Goldland lines from last night:

Nadine’s eternal quest: “Where can I get another gun?”

And proving, Crocodile-Dundee-like, that she prefers her firepower man-sized: “That’s not a gun… this is a gun!”

Elijah in Fluxx: “You give me the toaster and I’ll give you dreams”

Gili, perhaps a little too enthusiastically: “Give me love! Give me love!”

Brendan to Elijah, basso profundo: “Give me the brain….”

and in Chef-from-South-Park mode (or Barry White-like): “Give me loooove.”

Jon adds:

Goldland feels like yet another fiddly Eurogame. We played in highly less-than-ideal conditions, with a full five players, a lot of rules problems, and way too much thinking and interruptions. There is no activity during other player’s turns, but you should reasonably be able to figure out what you are doing during other player’s turns unless they steal the treasure you intend to get (like Gili kept doing to me).

While the game can get boring if a runaway leader occurs, as it did for us, I see no reason why it should necessarily occur most of the time. Therefore, I suspect that I would like the game better next time, but really, only with quicker play.

In the meantime, the game has this strange problem that there is not necessarily any defined end to the game unless someone reaches the treasure chest at the end, but which the game does not force you to eventually reach. I suppose the same could also be said about Settlers of Catan. Furthermore, it is sometimes hard to determine who should possess the adventure tiles, since you have to remember not only which squares go with which tiles, but count the tents on similarly colored tiles around the board and also remember who placed them in which order. And the symbology on the board is confusing, cryptic, and not consistent. And the game mechanics involve that four tiered trading mechanism where you have to trade A for B, B for C, and C for D, which is the definition of fiddly.

The theme is sort of present, but much of it makes little thematic sense. In this area, it is simply and clearly less of a game than Tikal. In fact, in all senses it is less of a game than Tikal. However, that doesn’t mean that it is a bad game, just not an inspiring one.

Adam adds:

New England

Score: Adam 37, Itamar 32, Michal 31, Benny 28

It’s a nice game, based on developing territory and getting victory points. The basic idea is to buy items in turn with which you extend your territory and develop it. Developed territory and other structures (settlers, ships, and barns) give victory points at the end of the game, and you get extra victory points for having the most colonists, ships, o barns. The player who buys first has to pay more for each item he buys.

In our game, I was able to gain a monopoly in settlers in the first few rounds, which lasted toward the middle of the game, because settler cards were somewhat scarce in the beginning, and I had a settler advantage throughout the game. Settlers are the money source, so I had a large advantage in money, which by the middle of the game I was able to turn into a point advantage, even when I had to pay relatively high prices for territory and development cards. Towards the end of the game it turned into a game of blocking me as the leader, and on the last turn Itamar bought two development cards which I could use but he couldn’t, worth 12 points, though it turns out that wasn’t necessary for me to win. All in all, the game is light and easy to understand, not overly complex, with straightforward mechanics, and fun to play.

Binyamin adds

I can add that the rules [to New England] are a little unclear, and we missed 2 rules both important – you are not allowed to buy more then 2 things per turn (we played unlimited), and the first player should change every turn in order (we played that the player who takes the highest token is first next turn). The tactics where not so clear so we all fiddled around. I tried to fight Adam a bit over the settlers (the money source) but he was lucky to be first when the settlers flipped and he could buy. The next time Itamar or Michal were before him but didn?t buy them, so he got ahead in money. We also couldn?t see the advantege in barns and ships so they were almost not bought in the start .


June 14, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Nate, Guy, Elijah, Nadine, Adam, Binyamin, Nitzan

Welcome back Brendan from his few months of research abroad. And goodbye to Mace and Shachar who are leaving this week. They were hoping to come, but couldn’t make it after all. We were hoping to play D&D, but I couldn’t find the time to do my DM work, so I think D&D is on temporary hold until such time as someone else takes over as DM, or I have more time.

Lift Off

Brendan, Nadine, Adam, Elijah

Brendan brought back with him this little sci-fi card game. It is a little unusual, being a real-time simultaneous movement game, like Spit (or Speed or Blink), so very chaotic. They didn’t get to complete the game, and Elijah appeared to not understand the rules. The game ended when the main games started.

Shadows Over Camelot

Brendan+, Nate, Guy, Adam, Elijah

Brendan requested this, and we all know that he requested it because he really wanted to play the traitor. Amazingly enough, that’s what he picked. Game over due to siege engines. I suspect that Brendan will probably never lose as traitor.

Ys

Binyaimn 88, Nadine 86, Jon 82, Nitzan 68

Binyamin requested to play this, another from his recent massive game purchases. Ys was the first game by the same company that produced Caylus, and it shows. Think …. Alladin’s Dragons mechanics on a Caylus board.

Ys is a blind bidding game, with at least seven different scoring tracks (there are more, actually). Each of these tracks pays off to first through fourth place, and the value of four of the tracks are themselves fluctuating through player bidding.

Improving yourself on any track generally gains you between 3 to 6 points. Each bid you place essentially gives you benefits on several tracks in different combinations; of course, your opponents are doing the same, That makes it hard to see what is really gained with each placement, and hard to plan with the blind bidding.

Still, like Alladin’s Dragons and Caylus, the main mechanic is to earn the benefits of locations through a series of placing markers, which places are then resolved in a particular order. The vast number of tracks, cubes, and other things changing hands is deliberately used to make the game hard to figure out.

And again, I quite enjoyed it, because I like the conflicting choices, and I like area control games, which I seem to get easily enough. There were no strategic problems for me in this game. It pretty much came down to tactics, which, owing to not understanding one rule on the first round of the game, I flubbed, and therefore lost the game. It didn’t help that I lost a lot of blind bidding wars by one piece, which was basically a matter of luck.

Binaymin took control of a lot of the interim scoring mechanisms, which gained him a huge interim lead in favor of the end scoring. He ended up winning despite all of our massive end scoring, even after making a slight mistake near the end of the game which cost him a point or two. The end was pretty close, as you can see from the final scores.

Most of the bidding ended up being between Nadine and me, as we competed for similar areas and used similar tactics (even choosing similar bidding numbers all too often and humorously), and between Binyamin and Nitzan who did the same.

Nadine didn’t particularly care for it. I groaned when I heard the rules explanation, as it was so derivative and similar to so many other Eurogames, it was a joke. Yeah it is a good game, and I will choose it over other similar games, but really. Something entirely new would be nice.

Modern Art

Adam 524, Elijah 336, Nate 324, Brendan 306, Guy 260

As you can see, Adam basically toasted everyone else, who apparently bid far too much for their own items.

Hearts

Binaymin, Elijah, Nadine, Adam, Jon

I was feeling brained out, and didn’t want to learn a new game (New England). I suggested Hearts, and we played two rounds with five players, which I lost gloriously with 23 points in the first, and 22 in the second. Binyamin is not fond of Hearts, saying that it is 100% luck. Nadine and I disagree.

Bridge

Jon, Adam, Binyamin, Elijah/Nadine

We then tried to teach Elijah Bridge, but it was either too late or too much for him, or we didn’t do a good job of it. He stayed for one hand and had to leave. We played another two hands and then called it a night. Adam and I played and went down twice.


June 07, 2006

Participants: Jon, Rachel, Elijah, Nate, Guy, Nadine, David K, Binyamin, Adam, Gili, Itamar, Yonatan, Oshrit, Mace, Shahar

I think this was a record attendance for us, which only serves to prove that I need to buy some more chairs and another bridge table. When the crowd gets over ten people, I begin to find it hard to be the “coordinator” of everyone else’s gaming; I have to just pick a game and let everyone else pick theirs, although I can offer some suggestions.

A big crowd is good, but it’s also a bit noisy. If we get any bigger, we are going to have to find a bigger place to play.

Caylus

Jon 89, Nadine 87, David 86, Rachel

So I was rude enough to grab David, who has only been coming rarely to game night, and drag him to a game of Caylus. I also grabbed Rachel, who said that she was willing to give Caylus one more chance, and Nadine, even though she had been planning on playing something else. Binyamin also wanted to play, but since I had selfishly given up the role of explaining games to all the other players, Binyamin took this upon himself. I completely forgot about him by the time he was done, and we had already started. Oops.

Complicating this were the few stragglers who came after 7:00 pm, as well as the fact that the first round or two of Caylus was constant interruptions before we finally settled down and it picked up some speed. Rachel was dying to leave the game during those rounds, but when we picked up a little speed, got more into it.

However, by the time the third hour rolled in, she was totally bored and complaining. There is a limit to the amount of time that someone is willing to invest in a game, and this depends on the type of game, the quality of the game, and the type of person. For me, Die Macher exceeded the limit by a good hour or so. For Rachel, I think Caylus exceed the limit by about an hour and a half. It took three and a half hours, and she probably could have enjoyed it only for two.

David and Nadine both think it’s good, but too long. Only I am happy with it, but since everyone else isn’t, the only way it is going to continue to see play is 2-player, or with a shorter variant. I may try the variant I came up with last time at some point.

I ignored the first castle building altogether, and concentrated on setting up the building path that I would need. I guess that simply by concentrating on a building path that I did pretty well, but as you can see the scores were really very close. David earned many favors, and both he and Nadine were generally swimming in cubes and cash.

The first scoring occurred a little early, and I was behind in actual vp’s. By the second scoring, I was in the middle, but set up with two green buildings, while the others had only one. I ended up building three blue ones, and a few gray ones for good measure when I couldn’t build any of the remaining blue ones. Nadine built the massive 25 point blue building, while David ended up with two blue buildings as well, including the one with 2 favors.

Even tracking the vp’s is fiddly, since you have to remember, every time someone puts a worker on a building, who gets a vp. Probably I was off here or there, so the final scores shouldn’t be considered accurate. If ever there was a need for a game to be played with electronic assistance, this is it.

Torres

Elijah 201, Nate 169, Guy 167

I suggested this one as good for three players. Nate and Guy were new to the game, and Elijah had played once before, I believe.

Power Grid

Binaymin 15+, Adam 15-, Oshrit 14++, Gili 14+, Yonatan 14, Itamar 14-

A close game, and from the looks of it, a tough game. They played on Germany, with only 5 provinces. My first game was also six players, and I loved it, although I think we played on 6 provinces.

Binyamin adds:

The game started with a lot of struggling over the plants. They were sold for high prices, some for too high, and this went on most of the game, except for those lucky last bidders who had a nice plant flip over.

The high prices made the city building a little slow for some of us. Gili got the 4 plant for 7, Itamar the 5 plant for 8 or 9. Adam then got the 3 plant, Yonatan the 6, Oshrit the 8 plant for 10, and I got 10 plant for 14.

6-player is a very crowded board in only 5 regions, and with the German map, prices are mostly average. Gili and Oshrit went to the cheap north cities, Itamar was alone in the east, while Adam, Yonatan, and I were on the cheap west side. Adam was first builder in the first round and picked his location. Gili went for the north. Itamar decided to go solo for the east and hoped not to get blocked. This worked for me in the last game but not for him in this game. He did never get to the cheap part of the board, but got to buy some more cities for 10 and 15 then most of us did.

Oshrit joined Gili. Adam was trying to convince everyone to go in different directions (away from him) so that no one would get blocked. All the others didn?t want to give up the cheap connections. Yonatan bought west and south of him, and I, the last builder, blocked him to the west and north. So he was blocked from both sides with his 1 city.

I bought 2 cities and Yonatan also bought 2. I think Gili, Itamar, and Oshrit didn?t buy 2. Owing to some miscalculations, I was the only one powering 2 cities. From my little experience in a 5 -6 player game, it’s not good at all to be first builder. You usally choose a cheap area and then get blocked from all sides. I prefer 3rd or 4th place.

The second round of building was also very tense. Almost everyone bought. Oshrit was always thinking about getting as many cities as fast as possible, and from second round on had the most cities for almost all of the game. Gili was after her. It cost her a lot with the plants as she always had to pick first and had to change a lot of plants. In the second round Itamar took the 11 – 2 nuke. I think it was a mistake, as nukes were too expensive to be efficient. He also helped the others, by getting the 12 and 13 down.

Yonatan was very exited with the 13, and he got it for 15. I couldn?t resist the temptation of the 12, so I got it for 15, which made it impossible to buid any more cities. Oshrit got some other 2 capacity plant, and I think Adam bought the 7. I don?t remember what Gili bought. Somehow, goods were available throughout the game, and mostly not so high priced. I am not sure why. Maybe people bought a lot of plants, and didn?t have the money to stack goods. But coal and oil where very cheap.

I couldn?t afford to buy goods and cities. I was last for buying, so I bought goods which might have been a mistake, as I got stuck with 2 cities for the next 2 rounds and got blocked. Luckily for me, Adam and Yonatan went south and Oshrit and Gili were fighting it the north. Oshrit and Gili bought 2 cities each, and so did everyone else except for me.

From this point on, Gili and Oshrit always had the most cities. But actually, this wasn?t so bad for me, as I was last bidding and first buying for the next few rounds, which came out good. Believe it or not, most people still were buying plants on the third round. I was a bit amazed over it but Oshrit kept planning ahead saying she needs to be able to power more cities. Yonathan folowed her lead and Gili was competing with her, so it was a bit tense. They fought over the 18 and 22. Oshrit got 1 and Gili got the second, for 23 and 24.

Yonatan went for the 2 garbage/4 cities. I don?t remember the number. Itamar passed to Adam. I am not sure and I was amazed to stay last with the 30 coming down, 6 cities for 3 garbage. I couldn?t resist it and bought again, wasting all of my money again. I had a bad experience one game in not buying a 6 plant earlier and then I lost the game, so I guess I didn?t want that to happen again.

Yonathan was pretty annoyed that I took away his garbage monopoly. Everyone bought cities, Gili and Oshrit got ahead, and only I had 2 cities again. But at least I got very cheap goods and didn’t get blocked.

The next round, people were still buying plants. I passed as I had 10 capacity already and only 2 cities. But Oshrit bought the 3 green. Itamar bought the 3 nuke, and Gili landed on a 4 hybrid or 5 oil – she bought one this round and one later, I’m not sure which. Adam also got a 5 or 4 I think this round.

I at last could buy 3 cities for not much but Oshrit and Gili raced ahead to second phase. People were still buying plants – Oshrit already had to throw one out. She got a 4 hybrid. She was saving a lot of money from not buying goods as she had capacity for 5 green cities. She later bought the green 4 also. That gave her a lot of cash.

I got a 5 for 2 coal and Gili got the hybrid or the 5 oil. Adam also bought a 5 plant and Yonatan bought the 3 for 1 oil. I have no idea why. Oshrit jumped to 8-9 cities all in the north and north east. Itamar went south, and so did Adam and Yonatan, who were also buying quickly.

I was in the center, going a bit north and in the west. Adam did a lot of maneuvering with city building and from the second phase and on was last in cities and first in the marketplace, while I was second. This came in very handy for him and almost cost me the game. When Adam bought 7 garbage plant, I couldn?t compete, as I already had 6, 5, and 2 plants, and 8 cities. He now had 7, 5, and a 4. He played very efficient with the plants, buying very little. That?s why he almost won, I think.

I made another stupid mistake buying garbage when I didn’t need it and then couldn’t afford a city. This almost cost me the game. Oshrit was buying again, a 6 this time. She had 14 – 4 hybrid, 6 oil, and 4 green. Ahe bought the 4 green for 37 changing the 3 green – a big mistake in my opinion. Yonatan bought the 6 nuke and got rid of the 13.

Itamar also bought a 6 coal the next round. We were afraid the game would be over if Oshrit could buy 3 cities and win. Luckily, she couldn?t, as she had wasted all her money on plants. Yonatan fought with me over the 5 green and got it for 48. He threw out his 4 garbage, keeping the 3 oil. Gili took the 35 – 5 cities, and I got the 50. With the 50, I had now 17 cities in power 6, 6, 5. That was game for me. They tried to block me in garbage – Adam had 7, 3, and had bought 6, but I had 3 garbage from before and hadn?t used them. I now had the 6 green and the 5 coal with 4 pieces. I bought only 2 coal for 4 as I bought second and no one could block me.

Everyone had 11 cities, and I had only 9, when Oshrit couldn?t buy 3 cities, only 2. Adam and I were very relieved as it was clear to us that the race was now between the two of us. Oshrit, Yonatan, and Itamar didn?t see it, yet. They where still saying that Oshrit will win with 14 cities next round. Gili was still hoping to do something. It was clear to me from the money flow and position that it was between Adam and me, and from his look he knew it too.

I made a mistake that almost cost me the game, buying 2 cities and staying behind Adam in turn order. I could have bought only 1, staying with 10 cities and getting only 97 instead of 105. I guess I thought that it?s a waste, as I had the 6 green plant. So still adam bought cities before me. If I had gone first, maybe I could have blocked 1 city from him. Then it would have been 15 for me and 14 for him and not a money tie, as it came out.

Everyone bought cities, going to 14, and only Gili was getting that Adam and I were going for 15. No one else could compete, as they could only power 14. Adam bought 4 cities and got to 15, and then they knew that it was between him and me. I also bought 4 cities. I was missing only $3 for another city – I had 23, but I needed 26. My wasted goods were at fault. I didn?t know how much money Adam had left. Lucky me, no one could block in the north. Everyone else was in the south. Gili and Oshrit couldn?t block me, as they already had all their cities, and itamar and Yonathan were not going to pay 80 or 90 for 1 city just to block me and let Adam win, so I got 4 cities for a 100 – very cheap.

Adam then showed that he had $7 left, so I won. He then figured that if he hadn’t bought the unnecessary goods, including a nuke for 8, he would have had 15, enough to buy anoter city, that amazingly was still free and with free connections. That?s why I said that it almost cost me the game, because if I had been before him, I could have blocked him, making sure that he wouldn’t get the cheap cities.

Oshrit was left with 87. If she had bought another plant for 35 and goods for 7 – no one but her needed any goods in the last round – she still could have afforded 1 more city and would have ended in second place. We did explain about 3 or 4 times that at the end of the game people can buy more than 14 cities and win. She thought about it but was so sure that she could win anyway and didn?t think Adam or me would buy 4 cities, so she decided not to take the chance.

So it was a long, tense game at parts. We all enjoyed a lot of calculating. Oshrit did really well for a first game, and in fact her first ever playing of something other than Monopoly. I think Adam played the most effiecient game and maybe deserved to win, but in this game, a lot like Caylus, it comes down to little mistakes. I forgot to buy 1 more good last turn and then payed a lot the next turn. I should have bought 1 less. I forgot 1 city. I bought 1 too much or miscalculated $1 or bid a few too many or too little on a plant. So I feel a lot that 1 little mistake is going to cost you the game, but as everyone makes mistakes, it usally it evens out, I guess.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Nate+, Elijah- / Nate+, Elijah- / Guy+, Nate-

Nate beat Elijah firat playing black, and then playing white. In the last game, Guy played black to beat Nate.

Havoc

Mace+++++, Shahar / Mace 31, Elijah 20, Shahar 10

Mace and Shahar were two of the stragglers, so they ended up playing a few games of Havoc as new players. Apparently they player five games and Mace won all of them. Then Elijah joined them for a game at the end and Mace won that one, too.

Magic: the Gathering

Jon++, David+

Love this game, but so rarely get to play it. Only when David shows up, usually. And David usually whomps me. This time we didn’t have time for a full 90 card Rochester draft, so we simply split 120 cards and constructed.

We both built Black and Green. I splashed a little White – also a rare occurrence. I added three white cards that gave all my creatures +0/+1, which I though would be pretty good for the usual standoff games we get in sealed. My deck definitely proved to be superior, and it helped that I pretty much pulled balanced mana every game.

Next week will be Mace and Shahar’s last week before they head off to Australia for a year. Also the exact date of the game night is still in question. More on the mailing list.


May 31, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Danielle, Binyamin, Itamar, Yonatan, Elijah, Nate, Guy, Gili, Adam, Yitzchak

My good old regular game group, and a few others. Danielle is a friend of Nadine’s son. Why she came, but Nadine’s son didn’t, is a mystery. And Yonatan is a friend of Itamar. Both appeared to have enjoyed themselves, but I didn’t get to play with them.

Rook

Nadine, Jon, Danielle

Since I had been playing around with card games during the week, and I know that Nadine enjoys Bridge, I took this out as a filler opener. It turned out that we had much less time than usual for an opener this week, so we only played one hand, which Nadine lost soundly. She bid 70 and made 50.

Power Grid

Binyamin 17+, Elijah 17-, Guy 16+, Jon 16-

We played on Germany’s map, in the north and west regions. The regions were chosen by virtue of us playing on a small table and my needing the larger southern parts of the board to place the bank and my power plants and house store.

We started off easily enough, with me taking the 4 plant. Guy took hybrid 5, Elijah took triple coal 8, and Binyamin took single oil 9. Elijah started with heavy coal requirements. He eventually converted to all nuclear.

Binyamin tried to remain hybrid. He was in “first” place for most of the game. On the second round of auctions, the 13 was up for bid, and the 21 was waiting on the wings. I really wanted the 21, but I didn’t want to let Guy take the 13 so easily. Unfortunately, he let me have it for 14. Then and there, I knew that I had lost. I couldn’t afford that building, and I could see the progression of money flowing away from me for the rest of the game. And so it was. Right up to the very end of the game, even though I played efficiently, I knew I was lost. It ended up being close, but not enough.

Guy got the 21. We three competed on the west and north of the board, with me in the north, Elijah in the south, and Guy getting squeezed in the middle. Binyamin had the southeast all to himself, so his later game was into the cheaper territory.

I got into garbage at a good time. Guy contested me for it for a round or two but them switched out again.

We ended up with two rounds of both phase 2 and phase 3, which is unusual for our games. At the end, Guy had power capacity, but was behind in buildings, and could only build to 16 cities. Elijah was roughly balanced, while Binyamin had cities early on, and only needed to catch up in capacity. He did so on the second to last round, and didn’t even need to buy a plant in the last round. I was extremely efficient, powering and building 16 cities, but, as I said, just enough behind from the second round. I lost 3rd place to Guy by $1.

The endgame proved to be lots of counting and math.

Caylus

Adam, Nadine, Gili, Nate

This was Nadine’s second play, and she recognized that familiarity with the game flow begins to make the game feel somewhat less fiddly. The question remains as to whether it is still “fun” for all that. Adam reports that at least once during the game he made a “revenge” play on Gili for moving the provost away from his building the previous round.

I noticed that they had built buildings all the way up to the very end of the road. Lots of gray building, green buildings, and at the end a few blue ones.

Taj Mahal

Yitzchak 58, Yonatan 33, Itamar 28, Danielle 28

Obviously, experience with the game is a big help here. The other players were all first time players.

Shadows Over Camelot

Binyamin, Nadine, Jon, Guy, Adam, Itamar, Gili, Elijah

Let’s see how this worked: Binyamin, Jon, Guy, Itamar, and Elijah started the game. Before the first move, Adam joined just as Caylus was finishing. As the first turn started, I got up to let Nadine take my place. Gili then joined. Then I took over Guy’s place when he had to go. And then Elijah had to go a little later. The game still played smoothly.

My game group seems to love the game. The mental challenge in this game has nothing to do with the actual battles, rather with the decision as to what good action to take, and a little less so as to what bad action to allow.

We did a fairly good amount of cooperation, to the point that I honestly had no idea who the traitor was. It’s a perfectly good strategy to just play straight as the traitor; the odds are that we won’t survive anyway. In our game we did pretty well, and managed to get 7 white sword on the table. We needed to get black swords onto the table in order to finish the game before the catapults could.

Of course, we also had to either unmask the traitor, if there was one, or get two more white swords on as buffer. Unfortunately, owing to the way the swords were squished together on the table, I miscounted the number of black swords already up there. I thought we still had enough time to get more white swords on, but we didn’t. We got a white sword on by defeating the Picts, and then someone said that we had 8 white swords and 4 black swords, so the game was over. Oh.

Of course, Adam then reveals himself to be the traitor, flips 2 swords, and we all die. Well done. I’m sure he must have actully been worried that we were pretty close to winning, but he kept his cool.


May 24, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Elijah, Binyamin, Itamar, Isaaci, Nate, Guy, Adam, Gili, Ben

My brother Ben came again after a long absense. I requested and he brought Cosmic Encounter, a game that many others had been wanting to play for a while. Ben says that he may be able to come again on a regular basis, which would be nice.

Itamar’s brother, Isaaci, came for the last part of the evening. I left my notes home again, so this report will be incomplete again.

Last week we started with an impasse of too many people wanting to play Caylus. This week we had too many people wanting to play Cosmic. In fact, although I had Caylus set up, we ended up not playing it because the ones who couldn’t play Cosmic also couldn’t stay long, which meant Caylus was out.

Dvonn

Guy++, Nate

These two started with two games of Dvonn.

San Juan

Binyamin, Itamar, Nadine, Elijah

And these guys started with a game of San Juan. They continued to play San Juan while we were discussing what to play next. When we finally decided, they ended the game early, with some opinion believing that Binyamin was ahead. Itamar was less sure about it.

Cosmic Encounter

Ben+, Binyamin+, Itamar+, Elijah+, Nate-

A four way win against Nate, who could have won earlier in the game if he had been willing to invite someone else along for a dual win. He opted to go alone, resulting in defeat during that battle, and ultimate defeat in the war.

Elijah was Fungus, Nate was Plant, Ben was Ghost, Binyamin wa Sniveler, and Itamar was Clone. Binyamin was originally not expecting much because he had played the game online. I assured him that the Mayfair complete version face-to-face was going to be much wilder. And it was; I recall hearing Itamar say something like “This is wild!” at some point during the game.

Binyamin seemed pretty tickled about his Sniveler power. I saw him try to use it once. He thought that everyone else had 4 bases while he had only 3, but it turned out that the moment before he was about to snivel, he himself had destroyed Nate’s fourth base through some means, so he outsmarted himself.

Shadows Over Camelot

Jon, Gili, Adam, Guy, Nadine

We all lost. There were lots of possible traitorous actions going on during the game, and many futile quests attempted and lack of coordination. We managed to gain Excalibur, only for the knight who gained it (Gili) to die young. The grail quest was coming close to killing us; first Nadine and then Guy and then I worked hard at reversing the process.

I singlehandedly defeated the Saxons once. Guy lost to a quest a round before finishing it. Other than that, each round a siege engine would come up and someone would fight against it. It seems like the siege engines are just a losing battle. Near the end of the game, nearly every card is a siege engine, and you can only get rid of at most one per turn, so the best you can do is hold stead while everything else crumbles around you.

We all succumbed to the dark forces after Morgan was flipped over. Each knight lost a hit point, which killed the remaining four knights all at once. It turned out, though we had used only 6 cards for the 5 knights, that none of us were traitors.

While the traitorous aspect of the game is nice, the rest of the game is kind of “eh” in my opinion. I also didn’t like the early player elimination forced on Gili. We considered allowing her to come back in as a new knight, but I wasn’t sure that that was permitted.

Geschenkt

Nadine+, Jon, Adam, Gili, Guy, Isaaci

We played a game and a half of this while waiting for Cosmic to finish. With six players, I gave out 9 stones to each person and removed only 7 cards from the deck.

Settlers of Catan

Ben 10, Adam, Gili, Yitzchak

We needed a relatively quick game to end, so I suggested this. Some people haven’t played it a thousand times, yet. Ben won by stealing the longest road and building a settlement.

Thurn and Taxis

Binyamin 25, Itamar 24, Jon 23, Nadine 18

This was my first play, and we needed to play quickly. Therefore I proposed that we play without any speaking and that no one explain the rules to me before we start. I was intending to play without even knowing the rules (other than how a turn works), but I ended up scanning the rulebook and receiving a few comments during the game.

For the most part we did play more quickly than usual. There was a bit less game talk than usual, too. But there was still a lot of thinking about what card to take when none of them would be of any value. Kind of like hoping that the longer you stare at the cards, the more likely that suddenly one of them will make more sense than the others to take.

In this, the game has a serious drawback, since the entire interaction is based on other people taking the cards you need (like Alhambra). You can’t plan on having access to that particular card by the time your turn comes back to you. However, after a bit of familiarity with the board, you can know which cards you need by the time it comes back to your turn. If they are there, great. If not, throw them out and try again, or pick from the deck if you need to use the extra action for something else.

Thurn and Taxis is another light, basically fun, but apparently shallow game, on par with Web of Power, with the card drawing mechanics of Ticket to Ride. There is just about no tension, except when someone takes the card you wanted. Don’t worry, it will come back up again in the deck, anyway.

At least it doesn’t appear to be broken. There may be more depth to the game than there first appears. But in our game, despite the fact that I was the new player, my turns were mostly done without much thinking at all. Pick, play, done.

I played an early three route just to get the feel for what would happen, and then I played a 7 length all gray set of cards. It was hard for me to remember that an N length route didn’t mean that I would play N houses; only some of them would be placed. A little strange.

I don’t know. Someone won, but it didn’t seem to matter much, or have much to do with better play. Next time I play, maybe I will find that some strategy is better than some other strategy, which will add some tension.


May 17, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Elijah, Nate, Guy, Binyamin, Itamar, Nitzan, Adam, Gili, Rachel, Yitzchak

Oh no, I left my notes at home! Maybe I’ll correct the specifics of this report later. In the meantime, we seem to have stabilized into a pretty regular crowd, which is nice.

Elijah, Nate, Guy, and Yitzchak always have to leave by 10:00, which is a factor in determining what games they, and we, can play. There is occasionally some variance to this. Tonight, Yitzchak left after his first game at 8:30, while Elijah managed to stay until 11:00.

We had a little standoff as seven people wanted to play Caylus, and it took a little time before we could convince some people to play something else. You guys who missed out this week can play next week. Only, I don’t think it is wise for anyone who has to leave at 10:00 to play unless all players are quick, since Caylus is pretty long. More about that later.

Yinsh

Yitzchak, Elijah

Yitzchak’s first time, I have no information as to who won.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Nate, Guy

This was the first time for both of them. I believe that Nate took the white side. Again, I have no information, but Nate came to ask me if the Orcs kill Frodo before he can use his escape, to which I said yes, so I have the feeling that black won. (The black ability happens before the white ability.)

Puerto Rico

Yitzchak 52+, Rachel 52-, Nadine 48

Rachel was around to play, which means a Puerto Rico game. They swapped in a few buildings, such as Library and Discretionary Hold. If they would have asked me, I would have warned against Library in a two or three player game, but they didn’t, and it turned out ok.

Nadine had a fairly early Wharf, so I hear. Rachel used her Discretionary Hold to good effect. Nadine can add more to this.

Rachel 54, Nadine 50

A two-player game played after the three-player one, Rachel again does well with the Discretionary Hold, despite Nadine having the Library. Nadine says that she didn’t play well, however, and that if Rachel had been playing her position then Rachel still would have won.

El Caballero

Binyamin 67, Itamar, Nate, Nitzan

This was the consolation game for not playing Caylus. In any case, it was a new game for all of them, so they wanted to try it at least once. They were not expecting much after mylackluster review. I didn’t say it was bad, just not on par with El Grande.

The result was something like that, although I think even a little less than my own feelings. However, let me point out that they played this game for two and a half hours, and every single move was not only examined, but advised. The style of play was one of mutual continuous cooperation, which would have driven me crazy. It was very noisy.

Also, I gave them a very quick rules overview to start, but neglected a number of rules, such as the one where you may not add the same number of caballeros as anyone else already has in a land region, and the one where you can voluntarily remove your caballero card, and a few others.

Binyamin’s last play was a choice between gaining six points for himself or blocking eighteen points from Itamar. He chose the latter, but it turns out that he would have won, anyway.

Caylus

Jon 58, Adam 54, Elijah 51, Gili 43, Guy

Guy had to leave a few rounds before the end. One of the good things about Caylus is that someone leaving doesn’t necessarily stop the game for everyone else, although it sure makes securing the items and houses that you want easier.

Caylus is brilliantly tense and painful. The vast majority of this pain comes during the building selection phase, with the remainder of the game simply coloring around this part. The whole thing simply works, and it works well. Being as this is my second play, I was able to not only follow the game with much more ease, but I was also able to teach the game fairly easily as well, which gave the new players (all but Guy) an advantage that I didn’t have the first time that I played.

Unlike Puerto Rico, each building does not have to be explained before play begins. Unlike a lot of other games, no single dramatic action can throw you out of contention. But repeated bad play will definitely hurt. It almost solves that paradoxical problem between better play being rewarded vs new players having a chance.

The game is constantly involving, and it does that without resorting to an auction, although the selection phase could be considered an auction to some extent.

However, it does have its problems.

The first problem is kind of a philosophical one. The essential side-effect of the selection phase is that of analysis paralaysis. In some games, you can sit and over-analyze without any good reason to do so. More thinking about things that you can’t control, such as possible picks from the deck or what your opponent’s will do after your turn is over and you can no longer respond, is generally a case of diminishing returns. Think to a certain level and then get on with it.

In Caylus, however, in addition to what your opponents are going to do, you have the real problem of keeping track of everything on the board and in order. More thinking, or I should say more methodical thinking, will serve you well.

Before every single selection, you need to methodically go over in your head the cost of the items that you want to do, the number you have, and the result of each building as it will produce what you need in specific order. Failing to do that will result in many cries of “Oh, damn, I forgot that I wouldn’t be able to do that because I first needed this.”

Perhaps this will become second nature to the better players as they learn the game, and then this problem will disappear. Right now it seems to be a detraction from the game. Pain is good up until a point, and then you wonder why you’re playing a game that seems more to be about who forgets the least rather than who forsees the most.

I experienced a similar type of pain playing Die Macher, and if I had to compare Caylus to any other game, I would probably choose Die Macher.

The second problem is the jockeying for position of the provost. It’s not that there is really a problem with this, it’s just not my favorite mechanic; actually, I don’t really like it much at all. Furthermore, in many games as the game progresses the provost starts well after the buildings end and this phase just isn’t going to happen at all. For the most part, this jockeying will happen only at the beginning of the game where it is least wanted, because it contributes to vastly slowing the game down.

Having said that, in this particular game this mechanic does add a lot to the game. The tense problem of selecting building near the edge of the board, and the necessity of wasting a selection in choosing the provost movement building, are interesting.

Furthermore, an abstract analysis of what is the optimal play for the provost is also interesting. Most of us played or payed for the provost to move to where we wanted it. After only one game, it is clear that this is shortsighted thinking. It is not painful for people to spend one coin to move the provost, which will wreck your plans. Yet everyone seems to hope that this won’t happen!

Two coins is already the pain point for other people. By spending one, you make it generally not worthwhile for someone else to move it, unless two of them conspire. And no one is going to bother using three coins, and if they do, they have lost as much or more than they cost you, so who cares?

The third problem is the Gate, which is really a very underpowered building. While useful in a few rare cases, such as wanting to go last in the castle, or being able to convince someone to place nearer the provost and still leave you room to move there, these occurences are too rare to warrant the building.

A far more useful, yet still balanced, building would be one that places its worker after the provost has moved. You still sacrifice all of the better buildings, but at least you have a better chance of obtaining something with him. I’ve only played 1.75 games now, but I think I will try this variant the next time we play.

Another problem which I mentioned last time is the overuse of colors, confusing back and forth of the game board, overstacking of pieces, and so on. There’s not much I can do about it until Mike Doyle makes a better board, so we’ll skip this.

The last problem is the length of the game. The game is so nicely balanced, that I don’t think that I can figure out a shorter version after only these few playings, but it would behoove someone to try.

If you need a shorter version, however, my tentative initial thoughts would be to eliminate the first castle portion of the game. Randomly select the player order and give out cash as it says in the book. Place n+1 number of brown tiles randomly on the board. Each player, working from the last player backwards, has the option of doing one of the following: place a house on a brown building, take five VP, move two favor markers, or take 2 gold. Each player does this once, and then do it again two more times, for three complete rounds.

This roughly simulates the first portion of the game. Naturally, this will have to be playtested and rebalanced as necessary.

On to the game.

Last time we played, we all fought over the castle. No green or blue buildings were built, and only one gray one. This time I was determined to follow the building route and basically ignore the castle, although I dumped one into the first part just for appearance’s sake. I ended up building three blue buildings, which, with my castle losses, was just enough to keep me in first place. Timing here, like everywhere else, is critical, because you don’t want to lose the income from the green buildings until you have to.

Elijah was the castle king, and he racked up multiple favors whenever possible, with 7 houses in the last part of the castle. Elijah was the last one of any of us to try to screw people up by jockeying the provost, after he spent his last coin to prevent me from using a building, which prevented him from using his own building for which needed that coin, which prevented him from building in the castle, which not only lost him the points but the favor. After that he felt it was safer just to pass on the provost.

Adam played a weaker game of catch-up to my buildings, but never got to build any blue ones. He earned many victory points from my using his buildings, however.

Every single turn, you could hear people going, “Oops, damn, I forgot about that”. Everyone of us overlooked what we needed, when we needed it, several times during the game. Aside from the pain I mentioned before, this was a fairly unique experience for us. Usually, if Binyamin is playing, he will tell you what you overlooked. And if Nadine is playing, she will insist that we roll everything back so that the players can replay it. Without either of them, we were left to suffer our misfortunes.

Gili also played the castle route, with less success.

Thurn and Taxis

Nadine 20+, Binyamin 20-, Itamar 10

The latest game from Andreas Sayfarth of Puerto Rico fame is a much calmer and simpler game, with much less player interaction than PR. The interaction level looked closer to that of San Juan, where the most you could do is take something before someone else gets it.

The mechanics are reminiscient of Ticket to Ride, but the play is more similar to Web of Power. Nadine says that it ends up better than both of them, which is nice to hear, since neither of those games appeal to me very much. It didn’t look that exciting from my perspective, but I didn’t get to play, so my judgement will have to wait.


May 10, 2006

Participants: Jon, Binyamin, Itamar, Elijah, Nadine, Adam, Gili, Nitzan, Yitzchak

Apparently I was the only one disappointed with last week’s RPG session, as everyone else seemed to have had a good time.

Tonight was a quiet night for the game club, except for the arrival of two new games: Caylus and El Caballero. Together with shipping and tax, they came out to a bit more than I was hoping to spend, about $40 each.

I offset the loss by selling Domaine to Binyamin for $30. My family and the group found Domaine to be ok but not particularly thrilling. Binaymin and his family liked it considerably better.

Caylus was on the playlist, but first some introductory games were played, which took considerably more time than expected, once again proving that we are a very slow play group.

(Lo) Ra

Nadine 39, Binyamin 35, Itamar 28, Elijah 14

Lo Ra is Nadine’s Biblically themed version of Ra. Aside from the theme changes, it plays almost identically, only changing the monument collection to be the twelve tribes, and adding another bonus tile. This was the first play for all except Nadine.

I was eating dinner, so I didn’t follow the game. Elijah started off strong with a diversity of animals, while neither Binyamin nor Itamar had any. Binyamin started a massive tribe collection, however. By the end of the game it was worth 20 points, which helped him make a big surge forward, but not quote enough for first place.

The game was really decided by Nadine having the highest cash value at the end.

Clans

Jon+, Adam

I introduced Adam to this abstract. Having played twice now, I can definitively say that the hidden color mechanism is silly in a two- player game, and probably in a three- or four-player game as well. Also, in a two-player game, the primary object appears to be to be the one taking the bonus chips.

Other than that, bunch your opponent’s pieces together, except when you can form a five color group. And that’s about it, really. It doesn’t seem that deep a game right now.

Taj Mahal

Yitzchak 53, Gili 43, Nitzan 37, Adam 35

Yitzchak couldn’t stay for a full Caylus session, and Nitzan was too new a player to be thrust into a game like that. So Adam and Gili joined them for a shorter and more straightforward game. I made the mistake of forgetting that Elijah would also have to go early. He should have played, too. Instead he had to leave Caylus mid-game.

Nitzan said that this game was less easy to understand than Power Grid from last time, since the special abilities of the different colors are all different. Perhaps there was also some confusion about the rules, as there often is for a new player.

We have a bit of a crazy game group, however, that always wants to roll back games to ensure that everyone gets their fair play, if a play might have been influenced by a misunderstaning in the rules. While I can understand this for a trivial or very recent action, it can’t always be done without causing chaos. In this case, Nitzan misplayed his cards due to confusion over the Orange color-switching bonus card and everyone was trying to figure out how to roll back a few rounds of bidding. Just suck it up. It’s only a game.

Apparently I am alone in this sentiment. This rolling back is one of the reasons that our group is so slow. On the other side, we also deliberate a lot before playing, even when there is no real information on which to deliberate. It is a natural act in trying to “not overlook” something, where sometimes the chief mechanic of a game is simply to include enough bits and choices that a player is bound to overlook one of them. It’s one thing to deliberate to ensure that you haven’t overlooked something, and another to deliberate on future events that can’t be predicted. Since there is often no way to know the difference, we think a lot. There’s something wrong with this, but I don’t know how to fix it.

It could be that if we allowed less takebacks that our games would just have more deliberations. Either way, the combination of the two can take a long time.

Caylus

Jon, Binyamin, Itamar, Nadine, Elijah

Which brings us to Caylus, where “too many bits and choices” seems to be one its main features.

The summary: you have to gain the most victory points, which you do by building houses in the castle or building buildings, with some minor victory points coming from others “using” your buildings more than you use theirs. Buildings are divided into several types, each type of which has to be built before the next type can be built, with some exceptions. Initial buildings produce goods or allow you to build the next type of building. Later ones produce money or victory points or more goods.

Each turn you collect income, place your meeples on buildings that you want to use that round (only one person can use any building each round), negotiate the position of a marker that will exclude some buildings from functioning this round, collect your rewards from the buildings, and build other buildings or build houses in the castle. Scoring the castle happens three times, after which the game ends.

Other games have just a few mechanics. Caylus seems to have taken just about all of them and rolled them into a sprawling collection. It’s got every mechanic I can think of except trading: auction, negotation, resource production, set collection, variable turn order, and so on.

While other games have a natural progression from “establish your source of income” to “collect your victory points”, Caylus has paths that require three, four or five steps in order to do this. First you have to get these goods, and then buy this building, and then get these goods, and then buy this building, and then use that to get these goods, and then buy this building, and then you get a few victory points. And, no, I’m not exaggerating. And there are not only two paths, but multiple paths to do this.

While other games provide a means to establish a source of income at the beginning of the game, this game doesn’t provide that until midgame or even later. The last few rounds then breeze by, while the vast portion of the game is getting to that stage.

For that reason, the game starts off much slower than other games and takes longer.

Now what do I think of all of this? I think it is great. But I can understand that it just goes right over the limit for people who don’t think that “too many bits to keep track of” is a good mechanic. It annoys me as well. Ten different color meeples, and a multi-colored board, a road that meanders several times across the board so you can’t easily tell coming from going. And the progression along the road goes: second part of the road, third part of the road, first part of road (castle), in that order.

Not to mention two different player order tracks, and four different favor progression tracks, all of which are half invisible during the game because your pieces sit right on top of the paths and on top of each other obscuring their benefits, rather than next to the paths so that you can still see what you will be getting this round. Bad game board design. It would have been far better to produce individual boards for some of these things, especially the favor track, instead of having stacks of marker disks falling over and hiding the tracks.

Well, those are the good and bad parts to the game. You can’t tell from all of this, but I really enjoyed it. It was thoroughly compex and looked well balanced to start with. As usual, there are way to many things to do; not only can you not do everything, you can’t even do one thing during a single round, as it takes a few rounds to collect enough to do anything at the start of the game. This was a hard concept to wrap around for some of our slower players. And exhibited some rude hastening comments or eyeball-rolling from some of our quicker players.

In our game, most of the second, third and fourth sets of buildings were ignored, and we all did most of our victory points in the castle. Aside from the very first round, we also did almost no marker positioning in order to block buildings from functioning. Maybe it is our group and we are not nasty, or maybe it is just not worth it in a five player game to expend energy hurting one other person rather than moving ahead, or maybe none of us every earned enough income to make this feasable. This step in the round may as well have been dropped.

There was also one “building” in the game that didn’t appear to have any use, the Gate, which allows you to store a meeple during the “auction” phase and then move it at the end of the auction to any remaining unoccupied building. The theory is that it allows you to hide your plan and also place it where you end up needing it most. But in practice, all of the good buildings were occupied at the end of the auction anyway. It might have been more useful if it happened after the marker negotiation, so that it ensures that your meeple doesn’t go to waste, but that’s not the way it works.

Elijah had to leave in the middle, and it was possible to continue playing without him, which is a good feature. We still had to end the game without finishing it. I was somewhat ahead as was Itamar, but it was all around too hard to tell what would happen by the end of the game.

Settlers of Catan

Gili+, Adam

As Yitzchak and Nitzan both had to leave after Taj Mahal, and the rest of us were nowhere near done with Caylus, Gili introduced Adam to Settlers of Catan. 2-player is a phenomenally bad way to introduce someone to the game, in my opinion, because the luck element of the dice is only controlled by the ability to trade resources, and there is very little trading in a 2-player game. I have been derelict. Hopefully we will be able to introduce him (and Nitzan) to real Settlers in the future.

Until next time.


May 03, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Josh, Mace, Shahar, Gili, Ilan, Elijah, Binyamin, Adam, Saarya

This was a “motzei Yom Haazmaut” game session (post Independence Day) which meant that I was home from work before it. We had a small BBQ before the game crew arrived.

Unfortunatley, the AD&D session did not go very well in my humble opinion, and this was entirely my fault. I only had a sketchy idea as to the encounters that the party was supposed to face next. I really needed to develop down to a whole lot more detail. I failed to do this, and the result was some vague and impromtu mess-making on my part.

Without proper leadership, the players can’t get into their roles, and when combined with the large size of the party, which also makes this difficult, it doesn’t work out. Furthermore, I didn’t generate new characters for the party members who died last time before gaming started, which resulted in both lost time and sketchy character material. And lastly, we had to start off with three separate parties moving about before they all found each other again, which was also a logistical mess, and even so, could have been handled much better.

So, sorry to all involved. I will take up the discussion further on the mailing list.

AD&D 2nd edition

Ilan played Brendan’s character, while Brendan is away.

Adam’s, Brendan’s, and Nadine’s characters wandered about the side of the ravine for a bit more in the dark. Brendan’s char, being the only one with infravision, led the way. They decided to stop by the side of the ravine and have Brendan’s char climb down to fill the water skins.

Without any trouble, he climbed down. When he threw a pebble into the water to see if anything reacted, the surface of the water formed into a huge fist and smashed at his head, just missing him, but denting the solid rock wall behind him. He only had to see this happen twice before he decided that this would not be a good place to fill the water skins, so he shimmied back up. They began walking away from the resevoir.

Meanwhile, Elijah’s new character was a Paladin, running away from his father’s estates with three slaves that he freed (Shahar’s, Binyamin’s, and Gili’s new characters). They had been wandering south for a few days trying to reach the border betwen the human occupied lands and the demi-human lands to the south.

These two parties intercepted each other in the dark, and after much hesitation and threats, decided to join forces and continue south together.

Mace’s character, who had last jumped off the cliff into the ravine, climbed to his feet in his armor and decided to trace the water back into and under the mountain, rather than continue towards the resevoir. Under the mountain, he met a mysterious cat, and then had a short fight with some cayotes. The cat then led him outside onto the side of the mountain, where mace’s char could now see that it was colored shockingly blue. The cat seemed to have some strange appearing and disappearing qualities, and took an awful lot of cat baths.

Mace’s char eventually stumbled upon the remaining party, and all were united. They slept by the side of the main road, whereupon they observed during the course of the day a few patrols, the first of which hurried off to the fort with half the patrol and a rider from the fort Later towards evening, while the party was hunting food, a few other riders ran towads the fort, and an aerial patrol circled around for a while.

Mace and Shahar fought some more catyotes while hunting, but they turned out o be rabid. Mace suffered a nasty scratch that did not appear to be infected.

Mace and his armor seemed to make a lot of noise, but not enough to attract attention from the patrols. Also, despite the fact that he claimed to have seen an electric blue cat, the so-described cat was nowhere to be seen by the other characters.

Under cover of night, they crossed the border into the demi-human territory, past the red border marker flags, with Brendan’s character leading. He was set upon by some small lizard like humanoids, who ran off both when the rest of the party approached, and when a heavily armed group of Elves and Orcs appeared, both shooing off the humanoids and demanding the surrender of the party’s weapons. With some argument (both Mace’s and Adam’s characters did not surrender their weapons easily), they complied, and are now marching towards the demi-human town of Hope, known to human’s as Scum’s Point.

Josh did a good job of co=DMing with me, playing the encounters well and helping keep the narrative on track.

Shadows Over Camleot

Jon, Adam, Saarya, Nadine, Binyamin, Josh

I had played this once three player in New York, and thought it was ok. I thought the group might like it better, but not a lot, because the mechanics are pretty simple. However, six players is better than three, and the idea of a cooperative game along with the traitor was quite enjoyable for the group, and they ended up liking it very much. We didn’t have time to end the game, but we had succeeded in ousting Nadine as the traitor.

We got very close to solving the grail, but managed to get stuck at the last moment, because we had to keep going back to Camelot to get rid of the siege engines. We successfully fought the Knight guy (not the small Black Knight, the one who flips over to becomes the Dragon). Excalibur kept going back and forth.

Our assesment was that the best strategy for the Traitor is to go fight the big Knight guy, both because it is hard to do, takes at least six or even rounds, and, when abandoned, results in no gain whatsoever for the good guys. But it looks like you’re doing something, meanwhile.

Being as this was a fairly new experience for all of us, we probably gave out too much information from our hands to each other, but hopefully we will do better next time.


Apr 26, 2006

Participants: Jon, Yitzchak, Nadine, Adam, Nitzan, Mace, Shachar, Elijah, Binyamin, Itamar, Gili

Again, a nice full night. And again, I was running a little late and was still eating when people arrived. And again, I seriously need to buy another bridge table. Gili and I played Cribbage while leaning on, or sitting on, the kitchen counter.

Nitzan is a new arrival who learned about the group from the Tapuz Hebrew board game forum. His previous experience was only Risk and so on. We threw him headfirst into Power Grid, and he enjoyed it.

San Juan

Shachar 35, Elijah 31, Mace 27

Jon 45, Elijah 31

Mace is always only able to stay for an hour, so Elijah and I taught him how to play San Juan. I thought I did pretty well, but apparently he somehow got the idea that the game ended when someone had twelve production buildings, rather than twelve buildings. He had a slew of them by midgame when he finally learned the truth. He ended up not winning, but he did manage to get a Guild Hall by the end of the game which evened it up.

Later in the evening I played with Elijah. He went for a strong production strategy while I went violet, seeing as that’s what I pulled in my opening cards. I still find the game fun to play, but it’s gotten to be pretty much brainless play for me. I have to play the cards that I get, but I can easily play this game and play something else at the same time.

I built (in order): Carpenter, Quarry, Silver, Library, Prefecture, Hero, Silver, Victory Column, Triumphal Arch, Palace, Statue.

Elijah: Coffee, Quarry, Triumphal Arch (a little early for that, IMHO), Victory Column, Statue, Guild Hall, Silver

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Itamar, Binyamin

Elijah+, Jon

Binyamin taught Itamar. When I looked over, I saw three white pieces on the dark side with a clear path into Mordor, so I kind of figured that Itamar was going to win.

Later in the evening, I played black against Elijah. Every one of our battles was a mutual destruction, until we each had three pieces left. One of mine was the Flying Nazgul, but that wasn’t enough to stop Frodo who could pass safely under the mountains. He then sidestepped all of my attacks and marched into Mordor.

So two wins for white, tonight.

Cribbage

Gili 121, Jon 101

As mentioned, we played on the kitchen counter until the first San Juan game was finished. Gili got a lot of good luck with the flipped up cards.

Power Grid

Nitzan 13, Adam 12, Nadine 12, Yitzchak 7

As I said, this was not only Nitzan’s first play, but Nitzan’s first Eurogame, and he maked a good show, with advice from his fellow players, of course. I didn’t see the game, but it ended the round that the Stage 3 card came out, a very common occurence. They played on the U.S. map without the north or central east coast. Nitzan started with the 4 power plant and a good position on the south east.

It was also first play for Yitzchak.

Goldland

Binyamin 25, Itamar 17, Shahar 9

A game brought over by Binyamin, I probably would have enjoyed playing this, but I also wanted to play the other game and needed to teach it, too. So I didn’t see what happened.

Maharaja

Jon 7+, Gili 7-, Elijah 5

I hadn’t had a chance to get this out enough, because some of the other players don’t like the victory conditions. I also believed that this part of the game is a minor problem. After playing again, I will boost this to being a minor-to-medium problem.

I don’t feel that it is anywhere near the debilitating unplayable problem like the one in Saint Petersburg. I still really like the game. But, the game just hurts by having a poor ending. It is simply too easy for the game to be decided midgame. People have to go through the motions when they have no way to win.

So much else of the game is so good, however, I can forgive it. But I will start looking for a way to fix it; something like points for houses, architect location and role selected, and palace patterns, or something.

In our game, I took control of most of the left of the board by spending a lot of cash, and then began reordering the scoring rounds. I was afraid when I had to pass two rounds without building a palace, but the other players also had to skip two rounds. By the time I went into the last strech with my income secure, Gili was very close but not close enough, since I was going to win the last round and win on the tie conditions. Elijah had to lose another two locations, so was out of the running, after we stole his role and rearranged the scoring out from under him.

Louis XIV

Binyamin 35, Itamar 34, Adam 34, Nadine 32

Played near the end of the evening, and therefore only three rounds were played. That means that one player never had to go first in the bidding. This was the first play for both Itamar and Adam. Binyamin liked it enough to borrow it.

Set

Shahar+, Binyamin

This was played as a quick filler. It was rather silly to do this, since Binyamin is effectively color blind.

Right now, next week is scheduled to be AD&D. It will be the evening of/after Yom Haatzmaut.


Apr 16, 2006

Games Day

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Tal, Binyamin, Tikva, Zvi, Shani, Shachar, Yitzchak, Adam, Nadine, Shlomi, Zeke, Eli, Sofia, Gili, David K, Nate, Guy, Itai

Pictures can be found here.

Once again we held a glorious Games Day. Like last time, we had 20 participants. Unlike last time, this one was held inside my apartment rather than in the sukkahs on the roof. Twenty people is a good crowd, but is marred by the fact that it can get loud.

Thanks to Nadine, we had an extra table, and we used the couch for extra seating space, but it was definitely a mite crowded. Next time I think I will move it to the scouts building. The biggest advantage of having it in my house is that that’s where the games are.

Binyamin brought numerous games with him, as well. People brought some snacks and others brought some money to cover my snacks. I bought a lot of drinks and also ended up serving up a lot of food, including a kilo of matzah, fruits, spreads, and so on. Around dinner time, we tried to find a place open for Passover that also delivers, but no one answered the phone. I went out to find one myself. I found some, but they were crowded, would have taken a long time to prepare the food, were serving small portions and were charging a lot of money. So I decided to just buy some hamburgers at a super and make them at home myself.

Some new faces, as well:

– Itai heard about the group from the Tapuz forums (actually, asked about it on the Tapuz forums, so heard about it from somewhere else). He came and played WoW, but I didn’t get to see him much.

– Shachar’s mother Shani came to spend time with Shachar; usually Mace comes to play with him. Shani and Mace are both old friends of my wife, and are recently divorced.

– Eli and Sofia are Anagram players. They came while other games were going on and played Anagrams while waiting. When we finally finished our games about half an hour later, they already decided to go, but promised to come back. They seem nice enough.

– Shlomi came once before. He is the game playing son of some non-gamer friends of ours in Beit Shemesh.

We didn’t play a party game, although I wanted to play Beyond Balderdash. Not enough native English speakers. Also, people asked for Cosmic Encounter, but my brother didn’t make it, and he has the game.

Here’s what we played.

Amun-Re

Saarya 53, Nadine 37, Yitzchak 34, Adam 31

Midgame scores: Yitzchak 21, Nadine 19, Saarya 10, Adam 6. According to Nadine, Saarya had an incredible number of pyramids in the second half.

Saarya adds: My 12 pyramids formed 4 sets, effectively scoring double, and I took the highest pyramid on both sides of the river. I acquired these mainly by paying 15 and 21 in the bidding on provinces with 3 pyramids each.

Anagrams

Eli+, Sofia

Eli and Sofia played this game while waiting for another game to end. It looked like a clear win for Eli from where I was sitting.

Bridge

Nadine, Shlomi, Jon, Adam

We usually play a few hands on game days towards the end of the evening. Shlomi had at least one 17 point hand with 8 spades headed by the ace through queen.

Nadine adds: Fun and instructive games with multiple people assisting with bidding and play. Quote: “You mean I really have to plan my whole game at the beginning?”

Carcassonne: Princess & the Dragon

Guy 192, Tikva 100

I didn’t see much of this game. I don’t even know what the difference is between this game and regular Carcassonne.

Dvonn

Nate+, Guy

This was the first game played, while I was still helping Tal with her math homework. I taught the rules and the basic concept of what happens when you move a piece.

Havoc

Jon 24, Tal 20, Saarya 16, David K 14, Nadine 13

A flexible game. Tal plays a strategy of trying to collect a straight flush in order to win the last round. She also usually wins the second to last round. This works as long as she doesn’t give up too much in the meantime, she doesn’t let the same person take second place in both battles 8 and 9, and she actually pulls the straight flush.

We played without battles 3 and 6 in order to speed things up (this was the game for which Eli and Sofia were waiting to finish). The first battle was skipped since no one called Havoc. David then won the second and I took the fourth battle. Nadine took Agincourt and Saarya and I split the next one. That left only two battles. I scored third in battle 8 and second in battle 9, which was enough for first place. Tal ended up second place winning both last battles.

People kept forgetting the rule about having to draft from the face up cards once the pool was full, including Nadine, me, Saarya, and then Nadine again.

Magic: the Gathering

Jon+, David K

David’s main interest in coming was to play Magic, and I was also looking forward to it, having not played since the last time he came. I had two possible sets of cards prepared: 5 sets of 24 cards in each color, or a collection of cards picked up from Neutral Ground that had been left by someone. I also had the two unopened packs of Ravinca boosters that I got by selling a few cards. Understand that, for me, unopened packs of Magic cards are rare and wondrous treasures that I don’t have access to very often.

We decided to Rochester draft the picked up cards, and then supplement them with a booster pack each. In that order. Turns out that the best cards were from the boosters. Also turns out that between the packs I had at least two duplicated cards. Is that normal?

I very rarely win even a single game against David, probably because I’m very aggressive. In the first game, I lost due to David getting a nice combo (big creature, card that adds +1 counter, goes to graveyard, and can be retrieved each round) while I pulled mostly Mana.

In the second game I pulled only 3 mana for all but the last few rounds, yet still managed a win, by playing more conservatively and getting lucky. It was pretty dramatic. When I finally got my last mana, I was able to cast big creatures and achieve a surrender from David.

In the last game, things went pretty normal, yet I still managed to win. I may have had the better deck. I made progress by emptying my hand and then casting my Ravinca rare which let me set aside my hand during each of his turns in exchange for drawing an additional card every round. I thought his rare was better (forgot what it is), but I guess mine was, ultimately.

David adds: My rare was indeed better than yours (Enchant Creature: At the beginning of each of your upkeeps, place a token creature under your control which is an exact copy of the enchanted creature), but you had a disenchant (no complaints there, it was a draft choice of yours).

He played Black, Blue, Green, while I played Red, Green, White. Lots of gold cards. I had a number of cards with Convoke, which lets me cast them by tapping my creatures for mana.

Modern Art

Saarya 460, David K 385, Jon 334, Nadine 306, Tal 253

This was the first meaty game we played, and I was interested in having David K play it, as it seemed to me that it would be his type of game. I was right.

However, he did experience agony on two counts (but good agony): the first was his trying to convince people throughout the game to stop competing with each other for buying paintings, in that the seller was making more out of it than the buyers. A losing battle. That’s what auctions are all about, after all.

The second was that Saarya kept playing once around auctions, and David was on his left, which always basically excluded him from winning. To add insult to injury, Saarya played a double auction without the pair, forcing David to play the pair or give up his turn, effectively. But then Tal did the same thing for Nadine, so he didn’t really lose out.

Not a single Karl Glitter was played during the game, and all rounds had either only two or three artists played, which means no valueless paintings.

Oh Hell

Jon 44, Tal 33, Nadine 32, Adam -2

Wrapping up the evening when the brains are tired, I taught this to all but Tal. Adam started off strong, but then couldn’t make any headway. Tal started off weak, but then gained ground steadily. Nadine played conservatively, but too much, so that Tal overtook her.

Power Grid

Jon 14, Guy 13+, Saarya 13-, David K 11, Shlomi

Saarya 20, David K 19

Another game I thought David K would love and he did. So much so that he played an additional two-player game with Saarya which was supposed to be even better than our multi-player game. He even expressed hope in buying a copy.

We played on the America map without the Southeast. We all congregated near the Northeast, but Guy had the worst of it in the corner, only getting to four cities before he was locked in and had to pay a huge price to jump across the board. I was at five cities in the same area, and a shorter leap gave me six, which is all I needed anyway until phase two. After that I just raced across Guy’s area and another area in the other direction.

David was again getting locked out of where he needed to go. Saarya bought an early garbage, but two other garbage plants were bought and garbage was getting run out of the market, which hurt.

In phase 2, Guy could already have ended the game, but he would have lost to me if he did. Phase 3 flipped up during the next auction and we all knew the game was going to end. I managed to acquire 14 capacity to Guy’s 13. While Shlomi had also reached 14 capacity, he was way behind in cities. That made it an easy victory for me, as I already had all the goods I needed going to the last turn and the board was wide open for me to build in phase 3.

I only bought 4 plants during the game: 4 (2 coals/1 city), 26 (2 oils/ 5 cities), 20 (3 coals/5 cities), and 33 (Green/4 cities) in that order. (numbers may be wrong, but capacity is correct). I wanted a better plant for the last round, but other people bankrupted themselves to prevent me from getting one. Which made no difference, as it turns out.

Saarya adds: I played a second game of with David after the first, in which David learned the rules. The game was very enjoyable, being very close. If the game would have gone on one more round, I probably would have won, but there might have been a tie, according to a later mock-replay, open handed.

Saint Petersburg

Binyamin 102, Zvi 92, Tikva 70

Binyamin wanted something light to close with. It went on a little longer than it should have, but not too bad. I taught them all how to play this, and I also explained why I can’t stand the game due to its deep and horrible flaws. It usually takes a few games before they become really apparent, but Binyamin could already see the problems after the first game. It plays ok the first few times, so they enjoyed it.

San Juan

Shachar 33, Yitzchak 32, Shani 31, Adam 27

Shani played this first, so she didn’t mind so much. She doesn’t really enjoy gaming too much, so this was the last game that she actually enjoyed, aside from Set.

I didn’t see what happened.

Set

Shani, Shachar, Tal

When your brain burns out on the more mathematical games, these type of games make good mental cleaners.

Settlers of Catan

Shachar 10, Tal 6, Shani/Shlomi 3

Shlomi arrived and took over for the not really interested Shani. I have no more info.

Settlers of the Stone Age

Tikva 10, Nadine 5, Shachar 4, Shani/Zeke 0

This time Zeke arrived and took over for Shani. This was a new game for the participants, except for Tikva. It looked complicated like Starfarers. I had played enough to not want to learn any new complicated games by this time, so I begged off.

Nadine adds: Tikva maintained her early lead due to being the only experienced player. One of the game’s flaws – the desert tiles – slowed the game down significantly, as to a lesser extent did our learning the game while playing. Shachar also played very well despite his lack of experience.

Ticket to Ride

Shani 108, Tal 93, Shachar 84

OK, this time I wasn’t even playing, and all the players found this game to be lackluster. So it’s not just me. Funny how this works in groups, isn’t it?

Twilight Imperium III

Binyamin, Gili, Nate, Tikva, Adam

I was actually planning to play this, but by the time it was ready to start I knew that I couldn’t handle a long game and still manage the game group at the same time, without my brain imploding. I guess I’m just not up to long games anymore, especially ones with direct conflict of any kind, even in a peripheral way. I’m still willing to try it sometime; it just has to be the right time.

I didn’t hear anything about this one, either. It went about 4 hours including rules explanation, and stopped only because they set a time limit. Of course, the second playing would be faster, one presumes.

Gili adds: Twilight Imperium III was much more complicated than WoW. This game takes a lot of thinking about what you want to do and how to do it. I was exhausted when I started playing so it might affect my judgement. I like this game less because you plan and plan and then the other players take your plans down to the nothing….I’m not sure I will invest as much time in one game another time.

Yitzchak adds: The game has its attractions but I would estimate a complete game (unrushed or time-limited) would take close to 9 hours!

I might play it again if progress could be recorded somehow and continued on successive jergames meetings. We would have finished a game of Samurai Swords! (I’m pretty sure 😉

Nate adds: Binyamin explained the basic flow of the game to me, Gili, Adam and Yitzhak and at about 5:15 we started playing. We agreed to finish the game at 9:45. I’m not sure what each player concentrated on during the game because there is so much going on, but here are few things I saw.

Binyamin and Adam both had a lot of money (which helps get technologies and build units), Yitzhak gained a lot of actions cards (which helps ‘cheat’ the game and benefits you in a lot of ways) and I tried to build the most technologies I could (which gave me at end of the game my only 2 points). At start there were mostly building and moving. We’ll spread to the planets that were near us to get more money certain benefits. Binyamin had to spread his forces far a way from his home base because there were no planets near him.

Me and Gili got really close and I guess that if we had completed the game there would have been a lot of fighting going on. Luckily for me 2/3 public quests were about having technologies (which I had a lot of) while the other third was to get the star in the middle so half of the game was struggling over there to see who could control it. We couldn’t finish even half of the game in 3.5 hours (4 including rules explanation) so at the end the scores were: Binyamin and Yitzhak with 4 points me with 2 points. I’m not sure on what position Adam and Gili were, I think that Adam was on 3 and Gili on 1 but I’m not sure, I might be wrong. Anyway I enjoyed a lot and I hope very much I could play it again.

World of Warcraft

Binyamin, Itai, Gili, Guy, Nate, Tikva/Zvi

I wasn’t expecting this as one of the first game to be played but it was. Like TI3, a very long and complex game, which is just more than I’m willing to play under such circumstances, unless I had previously played.

Gili adds: I enjoyed very much WOW mainly because of the group I was in. We had a lot of laughs. As for the game – it’s not very complicated. You get creatures you have to kill in order to get money and ex. as well as creatures that block your way so you have to kill them but don’t get anything for them.The goal of this game is for your group to defeat first the big monster. As always I would have played the game differently next time because there wasn’t enough action (I didn’t lose a single life point the entire game). My group always fought together so it was easy to kill the monsters but maybe we were lucky… Anyway this game has a disadvantage about the moves you can do each turn and it takes a lot of time between turns. I would like to play it again.

All involved enjoyed it, I hear. No further information.

Yinsh

Shachar+, Shani

A diversion while waiting for another game to finish.

And so another games day came and went. Thanks to all for participating, and see you next time.


Apr 05, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Binyamin, Saarya, Adam, Gili, Elijah, Shachar, Mace

Elijah spent a little time at the beginning of the session creating a new character for the AD&D game. A new player and he wants to be an Illusionist. Hoo boy.

Mace could only stay for the first game and return later, since he has a conflict on Wed evenings. Shachar met Elijah; was this the first time? Whatever, they seemed to hit it off very well, being about the same age (10). Unfortunately, that also meant that they were not very focussed on the game they were playing, or it could be that the game (Primordial Soup) was just too long and dry for them.

Santorini

Nadine+, Jon

Jon, Nadine, Binyamin

This game was sent to me by its creator in order to review. It is a simple abstract where you move a piece and then place a piece. You can move up onto a piece each time you move, and your object is to move up to the third level. In order to prevent others from moving up, you can block accessible third level spots from other players by capping them with domes, assuming you are close enough to reach an abutting spot.

I will provide a longer description in a review, but that’s bout it. The game also comes with some nifty role cards, ala Cosmic Encounter. It works nicely and elegently as a two-player game, both with and without the role cards. However, it has serious problems as a three- player game.

In the first game, Nadine said that she though the game was good, but that it wasn’t her type of game. She wanted to quit close to the beginning convinced that I would win. With a little coaxing, she continued. I thought that I had her in a position where I could force a win, but she managed to find the perfect move to snatch victory away from me and secure the win for herself. Ah well.

The second game was abandoned after finding ourselves in a king-making position.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Saarya, Adam

I didn’t see what happened, although at midgame it looked like Saarya, playing white, didn’t have much of a chance.

The Menorah Game

Mace+, Shachar, Elijah, Gili

Mace had observed the game, but not played. They all seemed to enjoy it.

Power Grid

Binyamin 13, Jon 12, Nadine 12, Adam 12

Played on request by Binyamin, who has seen it but not played it. His comment was that it was a nice game but a bit too long.

We played on the East coast of the US. Binyamin started in central US, which was the west area of the board, while the three of us started on the East coastline. Everyone else bought too many plants, too soon. They got ahead in production , but then slowed down while I calmly caught up, buying cities slowly.

My second plant was 21, Hybrid 2->4. I was content with that for a while. Unfortunately, it is a mistake to buy too many “4” plants, as I eventually found myself with three 4 city plants. While others had a 5 plant and some 2s or 3s. I ended up in that position because the power plants were coming very slowly, and I really needed the upgrades as I would otherwise have been losing the cash race.

The problem is that when a 6 plant becomes available, my purchasing it only increases my output by 2, while anyone else gains 3 or 4 out of it after tossing a dinky plant.

Binyamin made a mistake building in an off-limit area of the board at one point, and we had to rewind a bit, which threw him off; he won anyway, as you see.

Step three was coming slowly, and the board was literally stuck with none of us having place to build to 17 cities. It finally arrived. The maximum production anyone had, however, was only 13 cities. Adam could theoretiacally power 13 cities, but only because he spent way too much money on the final production plant to do it, and he couldn’t build to more than 12 cities.

I misplayed and should have won. I had enough money to contest Binyamin for a power plant that would let me upgrade my plants to power 13 cities, but I was keeping money to build more cities when I already had 14 cities. So I let him outbid me. I was hoping that a bigger plant would come down for me to bid on, but a dinky plant came out instead, and I lost the opportunity.

Nadine was also stuck at only 12 power capacity. Binyamin was able to end the game and power 13, while Adam could only build 12 cities, and Nadine and I could only power 12 cities.

Primordial Soup

Gili+, Saarya, Shachar, Elijah

First play for all but Gili. It was a long game, and seemed chaotic as the players got up and ran around a lot. It also had to end just before they could finish the game, but Gili was way in front and there is no way to catch the leader, really.

Bridge

Binyamin, Nadine, Adam, Mace

These guys gamely tried to pay a few rounds of bridge before game night ended. Apparently some refreshers were needed for the bidding, however, so they didn’t get to play more than a hand or two.

No game night next week. Hag Sameyach.


Mar 29, 2006

Participants: Jon, Charlie, Nate, Guy, Yitzchak, Binyamin, Nadine, Gili

Charlie is Charlie Kersten, otherwise known as Kartafilos on BGG. He contacted me last week and said that he would be in Israel for two weeks and was there a game group available? So he came tonight, and hopefully will come again next week. Charlie is an experienced gamer, and a nice person, so it was a pleasure to have him over.

The political comment of the evening was when I read aloud from the computer screen that “the new parliment will have 24 members, 14 of which had spent time in Israeli jails”, and everyone thought I was talking about the new Israeli government. I was talking about the new Hamas govermnment. The fact that people could have confused them at this announcment is somewhat amusing.

Binyamin came over early to set up Twilight Imperium 3. He was hoping to play a few rounds in order for us to get the idea of how the game plays, in order to prepare for playing the whole game on Games Day. B has several of these long games that include many complex parts and direct player conflict that he wants to play, so I sympathize with him. They are not really for our general group, however.

My expectation was only that he would set it up, explain the rules, and run through a sample round, which would take 45 minutes, but his was that we would play through several rounds for an hour and a half or two hours. Unfortunately, that would have killed the evening for several people who could only stay until 10:00.

Fortunately, the rules for TI3 are not really that difficult. It is only the choices and strategies that are complex. The basic rules explanation, aside from how conflicts are resolved, is fairly quick:

You each start with different races ala Cosmic Encounter, and you set up the board like Settlers of Catan in a particular way (how is not relevant). Each player’s race determines lots of things, like his ship capabilities, special powers, and so on.

Each round you: A) pick roles like Puerto Rico, B) do actions like Goa, and C) play mission cards like Louis XIV. The roles determine player order, like El Grande. The mission cards give you victory points, and the game ends when someone gets ten points. There are some other ways to get points, and some other ways to end the game.

The types of actions you can perform are: A) your role action; and then everyone else can pay a token to do the secondary action listed on the role; this actions is mandatory; B) a move action, which may result in space conflict or planetary conflict; and C) a swapping move action, where you move ships between two bordering hexes you control.

Each round you also get tokens you can allocate into three piles: A) number of ships you can have in one area, B) number of move actions you can take, and C) I forget. The number depends on your race and the planets you control.

That’s it, really.

Like Puerto Rico, there is more to know, but it is all details. Lots of things give you action cards that give you abilities that affect the basic activities. Other things turn over other cards like political cards that resolve and affect people. And so on. Exactly what these do and how strong they are is not really relevant. Your goal is to fulfill the mission cards and get ten points, and all of the rest you can figure out once you start playing. Take a look at a few sample cards in each pile to get the idea of what they do and start playing.

So saying, we put the game away and played something else. The truth is that I hate hate hate dice based combat. I even didn’t like Wallenstein’s cube tower combat, although its redeeming factor is that it is a single action, and therefore quick. I just don’t enjoy gambling, and that’s what luck based combat resolution is. I don’t care that you can reduce or increase your odds of winning, even by a factor of ten. It’s just not interesting to me to then complete the mechanic by actually rolling the die/throwing the cubes. If my odds of winning are ten to one, I want to win. It is not exciting to me to lose, and neither is it satisfying to win. I won when I made the right strategic decisions. I don’t want to win or lose by luck.

But so saying that, I actually liked Wallenstein, because so much of the game was not combat resolution. It didn’t all come down to combat resolution. So while the combat reduced my enjoyment of the game, there was still a whole lot to enjoy. I think the same is true of TI3, as it looks like a whole lot of the game can be played by ignoring most of the combat, altogether.

We will see.

San Juan

Charlie 28, Guy 19, Nate 16

I started this game with Nate and Guy while Binyamin was still setting up TI3. Charlie walked in at the end of the first round, and I let him take over this for me while I went to join the TI3 explanation.

This was the first game for Nate and Guy, so no surprise that they lost. The scores were really low, as you can see, as only Charlie ended with a six pointer.

Princes of Florence

Yitzchak 68, Charlie 64, Guy 52, Nate 50

Played by request, and another first for Nate and Guy who did pretty well. Playing four player apparently threw Charlie off a little. Unlike five and three player, I don’t have to make any changes to the rules for four players. Everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Medina

Nadine 41, Jon 39, Binyamin 29, Gili 27

Another game Binyamin brought over, this game is entirely abstract in the way that Torres is. In fact, it plays a lot like Torres, without Torres’s 3-d aspect. My snap judgement is that it is a good game, but a lesser cousin of Torres.

The idea: you start the game with castle pieces in four colors, four “castle ownership blocks” in your own color, and a bunch of sheds, people, and walls. The board starts as an empty grid except for four towers at the corners and one people somewhere in the middle. Each castle color has a point value between 1 and 4, and each corner has a point value between 1 and 4. The object of the game is to score the most points. How?

Each player places two items on his or her turn. You can only place castle pieces next to castle pieces of the same color until someone decided to cap it with their ownership piece, after which someone starts the new castle of that color elsewhere and the same rule then applies. You can place sheds next to castle pieces of claimed or unclaimed castles. You can’t place castle pieces or sheds such that they touch another castle orthogonally or diagonally (so as not to “block the road”). You can only claim one castle of each color.

You place walls extending out from the tower, so long as the walls don’t meet walls extending from another tower. You place poeple extending the line of people from either end until you can’t place a people without it touching two other people, at which point you may start a new people line somewhere else. You must keep playing as long as you have pieces, even if it doesn’t help you. That’s it.

Scores: 1 point for each castle piece or shed in your claimed castles. 1 point for each people or wall orthoginally next to your castle pieces or sheds. The castle bonus for having the largest size castle in a certain color (first to reach that size wins it). The tower bonus for the last to connect a castle to a wall extending from the tower.

The wierd mechanism of the game is that everyone is contributing to the growing castles until one player claims it. At which point the players stast a new cstle of that color. You can only claim one castle in a particular color, however. The new castle may conceivably grow larger than the one you already claimed, or it might be placed in such a way that it can never grow by more than one or two pieces due to constraining castles surrounding it.

I’m not terribly thrilled with the mechanism, I must say. I like the constrained part, but it is too easy for someone to give the player on his or her left a nifty castle to claim before it ever gets back to you. On the other hand, this probably works well as a two player game.

The other bad part of the game is the complete lack of a scoring track. Even if you only used it at the end of the game, it is still necessary. As it is, people who actually want to play well will just have to sit and count the scores each round, slowing down the game. A good mechanic to add would have had some hidden scoring mechanism, such as a point factor on the bottom of your ownership block which affects the scoring of the castle. That way no one could gain from counting the scores every round.

So it is a good game, but not a great game. Binyamin feels differently. I enjoyed Santiago more.

In our game, I played castles on one side of the board, which gave me control over the tower bonus there. I also set up a neat mechanism for stealing the people to my side of the board; Binyamin managed to block it and take the people to his side, but it turns out that he played incorrectly, resulting in him and Nadine getting several people point bonuses that should have come to me.

Binyamin saved his ownership pieces until very late, hoping we would be forced to build him a nice castle before he claimed it, but I placed a shed to limit the possible size of the tower that could be built in the remaining free area, which resulted in no particular gain for him. Nadine could have scored a bit more than him by claiming a castle before he did and then starting the last castle of that color in a dead location, but she wasn’t familiar enough with the rules to do that.

Nadine adds:

In Medina, I didn’t figure out that I should take the 2 castle and block Binyamin from building a bigger one, but when he limited me to 1, it was next to a fence so I think I got 2 points anyway. What mattered more than that castle was being able to go last to get the last connection point. It’s a good game, it seemed like there was a lot of luck but that may be due to lack of experience.

San Marco

Binyamin, Nadine, Gili

Last time we played this, Binyamin was so slow that it was painful for me. Now Binaymin has progressed to being a quicker player (or so I hear from him) and found it to be painful to play with new players who were slow. Gili and Nadine had played only once before; it is the type of game that offers too many choices for their way of thinking (?). Whatever the reason, all three of them were in pain by the middle of the game, until I suggested that they just stop, which they all happily did. They were at the end of the second round, so they scored and Binyamin and Nadine were tied.

Nadine adds:

There is too much time in San Marco with nothing to do. Unless you’re dividing or selecting cards, there’s no point in planning or assessing positions, which doesn’t take long and the board changes all the time in any case. And I don’t like that who selects first in 3-player is random rather than by rotation. And there are too many negative moves. El Grande is much more interesting, because often when you displace pieces, you have to find places on the board for them, instead of just taking them off the board. (Except in the expansion without our fix to prevent too many negative moves.)

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Gili, Binyamin

To complicate San Marco even more, Gili and Binyamin played this whenever they were waiting for Nadine to split the cards.

Geschenkt

Jon 45, Charlie 51, Nate 74, Guy 75

Charlie 10, Jon 20, Guy 21, Nate 24

Nate and Guy had only a few minutes to play. I couldn’t find my Geschenkt mockup, so I quickly made another one. First plays for them, as usual. In the first game they had some confusion as to the rules. Still a great game.

Tigris and Euphrates

Jon 7/7/9/10, Charlie 7/7/7/8

A record setting short game for our group, we played this in twenty minutes. We so rarely get to play it, that I took it out as a 2-player game with someone who I thought would enjoy it. It was fun, but quick as I said.

Treasures went very quickly, with Chalie starting in the middle and taking the two treasures in the center bottom within a few rounds. I started where the rivers meet, and I was gaining a very nice color balance. Charlie hit me with an external conflict which netted him some points in two colors and removed my leaders. However, I placed them right back where they were and booted one of his with a successful internal conflict.

Then a quick disaster left him no more leaders. He started on the other side of the board while I built a monument. I had no reds, but luckily he didn’t attack me with internal conflicts. My four treasures at the end of the game were all used in red to make 7 red points. I guess Charlie thought that his earlier external conflict had netted him an advantage, but he didn’t count on the points my monument was producing.

The game ended suddenly, and the scores were close, as you can see.

The Menorah Game

Gili+, Charlie

The final game of the evening for them, I didn’t see how this went. It was, of course, Charlie’s first play. Binyamin wasn’t intrested in playing, so we played …

Go (9×9)

Jon 46, Binyamin 35

I taught Binyamin, not the rules, exactly, but the basic strategies. I don’t get to play this much, and I’m still not very good, but I think I might be ready to move up to the 11×11 board. Binyamin started the game. We were pretty much divided down the middle, diagonally, so I won with the little points of contention in the middle.

Great game.


Mar 22, 2006

Participants: Jon, Josh, Brendan, Itamar, Nadine, Binyamin, Gili, Ilan, Elijah, Adam, Mace, Shachar

Today’s main event was our second session of D&D. Once again we had a large crowd, too large for real comfort. This time I received the assistance of Josh as assistant GM. This helped somewhat, if not totally. Josh’s input was also welcome in building various world viewpoints, as well as handling the NPCs.

Josh stepped into the scene we left off from last time, which, after looking at the situation, he declared to look rather grim for the party. He was convinced that they would all be wiped out. I assured him that it was still possible for the party to escape without much damage, and that player characters can always surprise you.

It turns out that I was right, at least partially. Half of the party got killed. Those that got away chose prudence as the better part of valor. Nevertheless, those that got killed acted, for the most part, with heroism and valor. Even though they ultimately perished, they bought freedom for their party members (not that that was strictly necessary, but it sounds nice). They also played with color and ingenuity, again, for the most part.

In the end, although we played for only two and a half hours and covered only eight rounds, I enjoyed the experience, and everyone got to do something most of the time. At least until they were killed.

Cast of characters:

  • Kalbald, the Insidious Shadow (Brendan)
  • Seaorin, the Stalwart Chest Breaker (Itamar)
  • Gladys, the Pet Handler (Nadine)
  • Baladin, the Astounded Mage (Binyamin)
  • Graily, the Firebrand (Gili)
  • Garbado, the Fierce (Elijah)
  • Leo Ruso, the Independent (Adam)
  • Dirk, the Armored (Mace)
  • Shalamar, the Horserider (Shachar)
  • Calron, the Pummeler (Ilan)

Round 0: The Setup

We last left our party as follows: they had killed the mage Jervis, a dark character who liked to experiment with his spells on captured slaves. They had also killed two guards who were outside the slave building, one female, and one male (who was drunk and unconscious during the entire battle, but had previously shot at them).

The list of equipment that they had acquired can be found at the above link, but included: a diamond ring with a twisted wire band, a bird- like healing lizard with 7 feathers left, 22 books including a spell- book, a scroll of some sort of acid spray/cloud, three sets of robes, a few short swords, a staff, two sets of chain mail 3/5 of the way taken off the two guards (5 rounds to remove and 5 rounds to put on), a lantern, oil, daggers, pouches, skins, and some other odds and ends.

During round 0, the party healed Garbado who was hovering at death’s door, by using up another feather. Garbado instantly felt not only completely well, but better than ever (well, at least since the last feather he took). They also distributed the equipment to various people.

They had just heard a door slam open from across the fortress, approximately eight rounds after the alarm was first raised, and three rounds since they defeated the guards and mage.

Round 1: Escape from the slave house

Basically, everyone except for Dirk decided to run out of the building. Kalbald and Leo both attempted to hide in shadows. Graily ran towards the nearest gate. Calron ran towards the bridge over the gorge, which is the other direction and towards the coming guard. The others ran towards the horses. Dirk remained behind to continue stripping the armor off of one of the guards; only one round to go after this round!

They found the gate had a wooden bar on it and also had a lock in the door. The horse area had a fence post ringed around it, and a small stable. It was easy to jump over or under the fence. All of the horses were unbridled and unsaddled. Torches were lit at either gate, over the bridge, and near the outhouse. Near each gate was a ladder going up to a small walkway over the gate. The walls and gate were made of thick wood and were twelve feet high. See the above link for a layout of the fortress. The moon was half full, waning.

By the end of the round, one guard had reached the party’s end of the bridge, and three more were seen to be coming out of the other buildings. The guard was wearing chain mail and wielding a long sword.

Round 2: First blood

Character by character:

Kalbald moved to the other end of the horse area, and continued to hide in shadows.

Seaorin declared that he was protecting the horse area, by readying to attack any guards that came near.

Gladys went up to a horse and, with her Druid like skills, made friends with it.

Baladin and Shalamar both went to the stables and found saddles amd bridles.

Graily climbed up the ladder and found a torch. He noticed on the way up that the lock in the gate was metal, but was unable to tell if it was locked or not.

Garbado fiercely ran towards the guard at the bridge.

Leo ran to the gate, climbed up the bar and flipped up onto the ledge, just as Graily met him on the top of the ladder.

Dirk finished stripping off the armor, and readied to begin putting the armor on.

Calron tried to grapple with the guard on the edge of the bridge, but was kept at bay by the guard’s superior reach with a long sword. The guard sliced him.

Meanwhile, the next three guards arrived at the end of the bridge. One looked and acted like a commander, and another was carrying a bow. Three more guards were seen to be exiting the guard’s quarters. The commander’s name was Duluth, as you heard that name shouted a few times.

Round 3: Saddles and arrows and armor, oh my

Kalbald skulked around in the shadows, edging toward the gate.

Seaorin charged the guards on the bridge and was met halfway by an arrow followed by a guard. He swung, but his sword passed cleanly over the guard’s head. The guard swung at him and missed.

Gladys went up to the stable to check around for what else might be there. She found various supplies.

Baladin and Shalamar both began saddling mounts. Shalamar’s horse in particular was very friendly towards him.

Graily took the torch and ran back down the ladder, heading in the direction of the horses.

Garbado attacked the guards at the bridge, but his blows rang on their chain mail. In return, he received some heavy blows.

Leo jumped over onto the other side of the wall and began heading right around the fortress, in the direction of the resevoir.

Dirk was putting on armor; only 4 rounds to go!

Calron again tried to grapple with the guard but was kept at bay. The guard and the commander both sliced at him.

Two more guards were seen to be coming out of the buildings, as the three ones that came out last round moved forward. Another one of them had a bow. The commander gave orders, and the men under him seemed to be well disciplined, and capable of performing their duties with minimal instruction. In other words, intelligent. In addition, they all wielded long swords and bows. They definitely knew what they were doing with their weapons, and received double strikes this round.

Round 4: Men down

Kalbald climbed the ladder near the gate.

Seaorin swung and missed, while the guard he was fighting inflicted heavy damage. He was no longer feeling well.

Gladys picked up some items, such as skins and so on, and headed towards the gate.

Baladin and Shalamar continued putting saddles on their horses. Shalamar’s horse continued to lick him.

Graily charged the remaining horses and tried to startle them into stampeding by waving her torch at them. The horses whinnied nervously and backed away from her torach.

Garbado continued to swing at the guards, who connected with him and took him down. He sprawled out, bleeding heavily. Other guards did the same to Calron.

Leo was now moving away from the fort following the cliff around the resevoir.

Dirk was putting on armor, only 3 rounds to go!

Arrows whizzed around. Swords rang out in the air. The smell of blood became pervasive. The captain shouted out, “Yield! Lay down your waepons and surrender!”

Round 5: Warning shots

Leo heard Kalbald land outside the gate and slowed down for him to catch up, as they continued to make their way around the resevoir.

Seaorin lowered, but did not drop, his weapon. The guard near him pressed his sword to Seaorin’s throat.

Gladys reached the gate and began climbing the ladder, but recoiled as two shots were shot right above her.

Baladin stopped saddling his horse, and instead retrieved the acid scroll from his pouch and opened it in his hands.

Shalamar finished saddling his horse.

Graily continued to wave the torch around in an effort to stampede the horses, but the horses were not bolting. She did received two arrows in her side, however.

Dirk got the breastplate on, and had only to put on the leggings and helmet.

Meanwhile, the captain and two guards began marching toward the horse area, telling the slaves to surrender. One of the guards maintained a watch on Seaorin, and another headed to the slave building to see what had become of the guards and the mage. The two archers remained on the bridge.

Round 6: We don’t know the meaning of the word ‘surrender’

Leo and Kalbald were out. Garbado and Calron were down.

I must have miscounted somewhere, because Dirk had convinced himself that he would be able to be taken for one of the guards in the semi-darkness. He brazenly charged out of the slave house only to come face to face with a guard. The guard was surprised, especially when Dirk ran him through in a single stroke. The guard went down.

Baladin began casting his spell, and found himself the receipient of four arrows. Three hit him and interupted his scroll, which fizzled.

Gladys climbed unnoticed up to the top of the ledge and threw herself over the wall, landing painfully on her butt. The lizard-bird she had with her gleeped.

Seaorin went into a great tumble, surprising the guard who slashed at him but missed. Seaorin missed in return.

Shalamar mounted his horse and charged the gate. He tried to get the horse to spin around and batter down the gate with his feet, but the horse got confused and simply turned in a circle.

Graily tried one more time to stampede the horses, but they were having none of it.

Round 7: The noble charge

Five left standing in the keep. Gladys in her wisdom figured out which way Leo and Kalbald would have gone and began trailing after them. Kalbald wanted to keep running, but Leo slowed down enough for her to catch up.

Baladin tried to convince the guards that he was really Jervis, while taking out his dagger and fighting, but was cut down by a guard who closed with him.

Dirk clashed with the commander. The commander’s blows rang off of Dirk’s armor.

Seaorin continued to tumble and tussle with his guard, to no effect on either side.

Graily threw his torch at the approaching guard and ran toward the gate.

Meanwhile, Shalamar took the reins of his horse, turned his back on the gate, and snarled. With bravery and determination on his brow, he sent his horse pawing in the air and charged right at the commander. With thundering hooves, his horse plowed straight down the path. He wielded his staff and struck at the commander with a mighty blow that missed its target. The commander swiped back at him and also failed to connect. With great proficiency, Shalamar swung his staff one more time. Unfortunately, the other end of the staff got stuck in his crotch, which unseated him and sent him flying off of the horse, while the horse thundered on without him in the direction of the bridge. He landed bruisingly.

The archers on the bridge ran for cover.

Round 8: The great leap

Graily was cut down by a guard.

The commander made a wild swing to grab the horse, and managed to divert him from barreling down on the archers. One of them had already dropped his bow and dived, however.

The remaining three party members made a bold and daring leap for the ravine. Seaorin tumbled and lept for the ravine. He dodged arrows and made it in, but owing to how damaged he was already, tumbled right into the walls and died before landing in the water sixty feet below.

Shalamar also leaped for the cliff. He avoided the walls, but impaled himself on rocks in the water below, dying instantly.

Dirk ran for the cliff while another blow glanced off his armor and leaped. He avoided both the walls and the rocks, and landed safely in the water … fully armored. His breath was knocked out of him and he suffered internal bleeding. However, due to a miraculous freak of luck, he landed in a deep pool of water right near the bank and managed to pull himself, exhausted onto the bank where he now lies, chest heaving and sore, barely alive, but alive.

And so we leave them. Four living player characters. They are missing the ring and the spellbook, which was lost with Baladin. They have the lizard-bird, Patrus, with six feathers remaining, plus some skins, clothes and weapons, and whatever else they took. Dirk has his sword and armor and some provisions as well.

Everyone got to play, which was good. Binyamin and Itamar felt that the encounter was way too hard for them. It’s not that they were first level characters, it’s that they were new D&D players, and therefore were just trying to figure out what types of things they could or could not do during a melee round. Binyamin says that they were expecting to be fully equipped characters and have their first meeting be something trivial, like a few Orcs, so that they could get the idea of how the system works before facing something as difficult as this.

Experience for the living characters:

Leo: Sensibly ran straight to the gate, but abandoned his fellow characters. He waited for the other escapees to catch up. Climbed a wall. He earns 370 x.p.

Kalbald: tried to hide in shadows, mostly unsuccessfully. Escaped by following Leo out of the gate and abandonding his fellow characters, too. He earns 380 x.p.

Gladys: petted a horse, gathered provisions, and escaped over the wall with Patrus. She earns 420 x.p.

Dirk: Put on armor and killed a guard. Fought the leader and another guard and leaped into a sixty foot ravine, and survived. He earns 720 x.p.

That’s the lot. Anyone interested in rolling up a new character for next time, let me know.

Clans

Binaymin+, Brendan

They played while I wasn’t watching. All I saw was them finishing up in the northeast corner of the board.

The Menorah Game

Ilan+, Jon, Adam, Gili

Amazing that we still have new people who haven’t played this yet. We needed a game for four that would take about half and hour, so I suggested this.

I thought I was doing poorly with money, but ok with candles. I also noticed that Ilan was doing well with money. It turns out that I was right.

I tried adding the rule that you can buy an N+1 card out of the discard pile for N, but it didn’t change much. I may change it to 1/2 the cost of the card you are buying, rounded up, to see if it changes anything.

Aladdin’s Dragons

Binyamin+, Itamar, Adam, Jon

We still had a bit more than an hour, but didn’t get to finish this, as the rules explanation took about twenty minutes. This was the first playing for all but Binyamin. The game was designed by Richard Breese, but plays very much like a Knizia game.

The game board is a track of auctions. Players lay bidding chips face down in any location until all chips are placed, and then the auctions are resolved one by one. The results of previous auctions may affect the outcome of coming auctions, like Louis XIV. After all auctions are resolved, do it again and again, until all tiles in the final four auctions of the track have been successfully won. The player with the most tiles wins.

If you like this type of blind bidding with limited bidding chips, it is a great game. I like it, although it’s not super fantastic after one play, just enjoyable. Not very thematic. As I said, I didn’t get to play the whole game, only most of it.


Mar 15, 2006

Participants: Jon, Saarya, Nadine, Brendan, Binyamin, Gili, Nate, Guy, Adam, Rachel A

Game night was pushed back to 7:30 following Shushan Purim. We had lots of goodies on the counter, and nobody arrived drunk. Rachel may have acted a little drunk, but that’s just her usual personality.

I had some games set up in advance, since Guy and Nate had requested El Grande. As I was expecting about ten people, I set up Amun Re and El Grande. Rachel wanted to play Puerto Rico, as usual, but she would have to wait until one of the other games was done first.

A few people came still wearing the remnants of their costumes. Gili was wearing a black funky wig, and when Adam walked in, he didn’t recognize her and introduced himself. Nadine had her Mexican hat with tassles.

Both Rachel and I were coughing it up, probably to everyone else’s disgust. I am on the way out of a cold, Rachel on the way in, or possibly just passing through.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Binyamin+, Jon

Opened as a filler while waiting for the others to arrive. Binyamin played white. I hunted down a lot of his pieces, and he gave back almost as well. The biggest lost for black is losing the Nazgul, since it is the only piece that can move backwards. Without it, once Frodo gets past your blockers the game is over like Fox and Sheep.

Meanwhile, I have been doing some grand devestation with Gandalf when I play white, so I concentrated on ensuring that he was killed early. The endgame came down to my having three even blockers, including the Troll, Balrog, and Witch King, while Binyamin had Sam, Frodo and somebody irrelevant. I took out the irrelevant, bringing us both down to 1 card. My pieces were lined up in the mountains, the Balrog in Moriah, the Troll in “the Mountains”, and the Witch King in Isengard. Call it spaces 2, 3, and 1. The last Mountain pass was space 4. Now both of his would have to move forward from the central space and have to attack either my Balrog in 2 or my Troll in 3.

Unfortunately for me, I knew how he could win, but he didn’t. He kept saying how there was no chance, and I kept saying, “so play or resign”, seeing as how everyone else was waiting for us to finish before they could play. Bin does take a long time thinking, however. Part of this was because he forgot how the Troll works, having played only once before.

Sam marched forward and got eaten by the Troll. I moved my Witch King forward. I couldn’t attack, because he would just sidestep and move around, so I needed him to attack in the mountains, where he couldn’t dodge. However, now that he had all of his cards back, the solution was easy enough, assuming he could find it, which he did. He attacked the Troll with Frodo and then retreated back to the other space. Now he could either move forward around me to space 4, or wait for me to attack him with his Troll, dodge, and then move forward to my vacated space 3, anyway.

Yinsh

Nadine+, Brendan

Meanwhile, another waiting game was played. Nadine is not thrilled with these abstracts, but at least they are quick and somewhat interesting.

Amun Re

Jon 47, Gili 39, Brendan 39, Adam 38

This was first game for Brendan and Adam, and maybe third? fourth? for Gili. I was not at all convinced that I had any chance of winning all the way through to the last scoring, when the scoring took me completely by surprise. Surely if I had taken the time out to actually count scores during the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds this would not have been a surprise, but, with the exception of the Catan series, I never do that. I suspect that my victory had more to do with playing with newcomers who didn’t have a feel for what would bring in the most vp’s rather than to anything I did right. As in other Knizia games, the things that actually give victory points can easily be forgotten in the chase for acquiring money and position.

In the first epoch, one camel province appeared in the first round and the water was at 3, but then sank to 2 for the rest of the epoch. At the end of the epoch, Adam was at 20, with the rest of us trailing at 14 or 15. Strangely enough, we fought for most pyramids on one side of the Nile and neglected the other side. We then discovered by accident that we had a three way tie.

In the next epoch, water levels were negative for the first two rounds, which suited me as I now had the camel provinces. I picked up a third one on the last round, and suddenly the water level rose to 3. That destroyed my income, but helped my temples, and it made Adam a very wealthy man as just one of his provinces had nine farmers and a +1 bonus card.

I concentrated on three sets of pyramids in all provinces, while the others built more pyramids in only one province, each ending with only two sets. Once again we neglectd one side of the board. Brendan had one side of the Nile with 6 pyramids, while I ended up taking the other side with only 3.

El Grande

Nadine 70, Saarya 64, Nate 60, Binyamin 54, Guy 32

This was a first game for all but Nadine and Saarya. Binyamin immediately saw how the game had similarities to San Marco, although Manaraja has even more overlap.

We finished our Amun Re game in two hours, and Nate and Guy had to go, so in the middle of turn 6 they decided to wrap the game up after that turn.

Apples 2 Apples

Rachel, Gili, Adam, Brendan, Jon

Brendan has weird taste in games, so he took this off the shelf for us to play while waiting for the last few minutes of El Grande to wrap up. Rachel joined, but seemed more interested in discussing inappropriate topics than playing.

Puerto Rico

Gili 56, Rachel 52, Nadine 36

The estrogen club reformed for a late game of Puerto Rico. This is the club that used to consist of Rachel, Nadine and Sharon, before Sharon moved on to the U.S. Although no one can replace Sharon, Gili is a welcome new member.

I was told to note the following: The final scores are a result of Nadine taking Craftsman in the last round. If she had instead taken Mayor, the scores would have been: Rachel 56, Gili 52, Nadine 37.

Modern Art

Adam 474, Binyamin 438, Brendan 432, Jon 424

We needed a game for an hour. Once again I underestimated how long a game takes in our group, as this lasted almost two hours. It turned out to be a closer game than we expected, although we all knew that Adam seemed to be winning. He was the most aggressive bidder throughout the game.

Some other games we didn’t play, but will play the next time we play boardgames, were Tigris and Euphrates (Brendan hasn’t played), and Clans. Again I wasn’t up to learning a new game, although I do want to play Clans.

Next week is roleplaying again.


Mar 08, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Shachar, Nate, Guy, Nadine, Binyamin, Gili, Adam, Josh, Yitzchak, Elijah

As I mentioned last week, with great attendance like this I need to think about getting more chairs and another table or finding a larger place to hold the game night. We managed to play our two main games at the same table, but it was loud.

Nate and Guy returned and look like they may become regular members, although they can only stay until 9:30 pm or so. Yitzchak also returned; once again I didn’t get to play with him. Elijah had indicated that he wouldn’t be coming, but then he showed up late. I played some games with him while I was in the middle of the main game. After that he tried to organize a few games, but didn’t succeed before he had to go. He wanted to play Geschenkt but I couldn’t find the cards. Probably a good reason to own the official game rather than play with a mock up.

Aside from the problem with Elijah, game selection this evening turned out to be relatively easy.

The Menorah Game

Shachar+, Nate, Guy, Jon

Mace stayed long enough after dropping off Shachar to assist him with some hints during this game. It didn’t seem to me like he was getting it, but he ended up winning, so what do I know? This was the first play for all of them, and some onlookers who had showed up later also expressed interest either in playing it (since they hadn’t, yet) or playing it again.

One of the game’s good features is that it’s rare that you pull ahead with a decisive lead, since the money tends to even out. You’re constantly scrambling for money, even at the end game; if you’re not, it means that you’re scrambling for cards. Only if you pull a series of low cards one after the other do you gain an advantage. Two people have complained about that advantage. I have a possible solution for it that involves the soldiers. Maybe I’ll try it next time.

Guy was also the second one to note that the game might be improved by lowering the cost to grab a card out of the discard pile. He suggested half the price, which I think is too low; I think it would make the price too easy, and I want there to be a need for excess cash. Otherwise the game loses a certain amount of tension. However, I think lowering the cost by one might work.

Nate and Guy both complimented me on the game. Thanks. Not that anyone wants to publish it. Sniff.

By the way, I finally have another game that is close to being ready to test. Actually it’s more like a game system. We’ll see.

Davinci Code

Binyamin, Nadine, Gili, Adam

Binyamin brought this quick game over and they played it as a filler while we finished the Menorah Game. The game is also known as Coda. Some sort of simple deduction game that looks like it plays like Go Fish. I have no further information.

Age of Steam

Adam 46, Binyamin 45, Gili 29, Jon 23, Brendan 22, Josh 13

Ah, Age of Steam. An excellent, excellent game. But long, especially for our group. We started explaining the rules at 7:00. That took 45 minutes. Then we played for 4 hours, until almost 11:45. Some of that was first time players and rules lookups. Some of that was our players; usually I’m the quick one, but even I had to think some things through for a few minutes. Not that it did me any good.

Still, I just love this type of game, and this particular game. One of its great things is that you don’t hit a comfortable point during the game and then just play out the rest. Even toward the end of the game you are scrambling around for resources. That makes it constantly engaging. Arguably, it is noticeable that some players have much better chance of winning than other players by the last few rounds.

The game is very tight, economically. There are too many things to do that need money, and not enough money coming in. I tried to examine the money problem. Like other games, a certain “rule of squares” applies here. That is, you have (in a six player game) 12 runs to make. Each of those runs can be spent in upgrading your train so that the run can go one more link. If you don’t do any upgrades, you can (in theory) make 12 runs that pay off 1 point each. If you upgrade 11 times, you can make 1 run that pays off 12 points. The rule of squares says that you should upgrade 6 times and make 6 runs paying off 36 points.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t work, for many reasons. While you are planning this, other people are stealing your tracks, stealing your goods, upgrading for free, and so on. You have to make some runs early on in order to pay off your shares. Then when it comes to running your train, you end up running on other people’s tracks and giving them the income. And so on. What a headache!

Which isn’t to say that the game is perfect. My few complaints: I’m not enamored with the good restocking system. I don’t like the push back on the scoring track mechanism; actually it makes the game better, but it’s inelegant and doesn’t make much sense. And the last round of the game has a few issues, such as useless roles and so on, like Power Grid. It’s like the game development went only so far and then stopped.

Anyhoo …

In our game, Binyamin took an early lead and seemed to be winning, but Adam crept up and seemed to be a strong contender. Around turn 4 (out of 6) I took quick stock of the board and realized that Adam was marginally in the lead. Meanwhile, in the back ranks, my train was too small, but I was at least somewhat ahead of the rest of the trailing pack as far as having less debt and more rails.

Gili and I were conservative in our shares. Binyamin and Josh did a lot of Urbanization, while Brendan and I concentrated on first mover. Another great aspect of the game is the various paths to victory, and it’s really true in this game. Adam won by taking Locomotive 4 times. I had the opportunity once and failed to take it, which was one of my major errors.

Brendan adds:

Age of Steam is “18xx Light”. Which is good, cos I think 18xx is far too long/complex/not focused on track building/not geographic enough.

“Age of Steam” has one problem that really annoys me though: it costs me VP to urbanise on the last turn. That makes no sense. All game you try to urbanise, and then on the last turn it is disadvantageous to develop a city you connect to (especially one you have a monopoly on). So much for investing in your network or developing the country. Let the peasant squat in their hovels.. no urban planning for you!

With goods production, maybe instead of randomly drawing 2 cubes and deciding which city to put them on, how about randomly rolling the city, then deciding what goods it will get?

Puerto Rico

Guy 55, Shachar 46, Nate 46, Nadine 43, Yitzchak 39

This was first game for the three kids, and it looks like they did pretty well. I’m sure that they had a lot of first-time-player help from Nadine and Yitzchak, as I heard a narrative coming from that side of the table (as well as an offer to let them figure it out on their own, at one point).

Sounds like they had a good time, anyway.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Jon W+/W+/B+, Elijah B/B/W

I played this while also playing Age of Steam since Elijah had come in in the middle of the main games. These were the first plays for him. I’ve found that, like many games, part of the key to winning is to concentrate on the victory conditions and not get distracted by fighting irrelevant battles.

Yinsh

Nadine+, Shachar

Nadine and Shachar played a game before Nadine had to leave, and while we were still going with Age of Steam.

Set

Jon+, Shachar

And we also played this, again while Age of Steam was still rolling along. After this game, Shachar fell asleep until it was time to go home.


Mar 01, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Nate, Guy, Nadine, Zeke, Elijah, Michael, Adam, Yitzchak, Binyamin, Itamar, Gili

A hopping night at the JSGC. If this continues, which would be great, I have to start thinking about more chairs and tables, or a new location.

Nate and Guy are first time visitors who contacted me over BGG. When their mother dropped them off she seemed very surprised that this game club was populated mostly by grown-ups. Perhaps she was looking for a “chug” for her kids (one was hers, the other was a friend, I gathered).

They couldn’t stay very long, but they seemed to enjoy themselves.

Also returned after a very long hiatus was Yitzchak. I didn’t get to play with him, but I was glad to see him. Zeke also came back after a few weeks absence. And Michael, Elijah’s father, got to stay and play for the first time in a while.

Of course, since I didn’t know about all of these people in advance (just some of them), there was the usual confusion about who was playing what and in how many groups. Binyamin wanted to start Age of Steam when it looked like there would only be three of us, which I nixed; Gili came in late and it could have worked. Instead, we ended up playing Santiago, which I didn’t realize, until reading the rules, also really needs more than three. So we were saved by Gili’s arrival, after all.

Maneater

Nate (shark) 6, Guy 6. Brendan 0

Guy (shark) 6, Brendan 3, Nate 3

Brendan had sent me a magazine that he writes every month. The magazine details a long travellogue, and also contains several pages of updates of games being played by actual snail mail, this being one of them.

I still don’t see much point in it. The shark can basically choose who to pick on, and then the other players get a free ride. Once the shark is on you, there is not much hope of shaking him off. Anyway, they seemed to enjoy it.

Brendan adds:

Silly, but fun. see my zine for a postal game, where 3 games are played simultaneously, to enable everyone to play the shark, and so even it all out.

Go

Michael, Elijah

I know only that Michael demonstrated to Elijah how to play this game.

Power Grid

Brendan+, Guy/Jon, Nate/Gili, Nadine

I didn’t see this one until the boys had to leave. By then it was the last turn, so Gili and I did what we could to take over the last positions. There was not much we could do to stop both Brendan and Nadine. I had a choice of whose fuel to buy out to prevent one of them from winning.

I chose to buy out Nadine’s fuel, since Brendan still had an extra city to buy, which meant that it was conceivable that he wouldn’t win this round, which would give me a shot at winning the following round. Unfortunately for me, he was able to finish the game, after all.

Brendan adds:

The 2 newbies were really good. They seemed way ahead of me at first, and knew what they were doing. Maybe Nadine explained the rules well. I’m impressed.

Princes of Florence

Yitzchak 57, Michael 54, Adam 50, Zeke 42, Elijah 41

I heard rumors both that this game had its boring moments and that this game was really exciting, especially at the end. Let’s see what we have here in the notes. Looks like chicken scratches. Elijah had two prestige cards, both of which he couldn’t use. Zeke had three Builders. This was the first time playing for Adam. Michael had six works. And Yitzchak won after a revoked chapeleplacement (that’s what it looks like). Don’t know what it means, but it sounds exciting. They seemed to enjoy themselves, at least.

Santiago

Binyamin 91, Jon 88, Gili 81, Itamar 67

As noted above, we could have played Age of Steam. Maybe next time.

This was a game I was interested in learning solely by its high ranking on BGG. It turns out to be a very elegant and excellent game, at least for first playing. “Elegant” is not used lightly; the game has simple mechanisms leading to highly interesting choices. The basic idea is that each round you get to lay tiles on the board with 0-2 of your pieces on the tile. Some negotiation then determines where the next water pipe is going. All tiles next to water pipes (including from previous rounds) don’t lose any pieces, and all others do. At the end of the game, you score the number of pieces times the number of like tiles under or adjacent to your pieces. So two pieces on a red tile that also abuts 3 other red tiles scores you 8 points. That’s pretty much it.

Like Torres, you have to be mindful of the square-scoring incentive. But there are no cards here to get in the way. The tension comes from not only what you give up or gain by choosing a tile or negotiating for a waterway, but also what you give or take from the other players in doing so. Lots of nice choices.

It had some slight weaknesses. I wasn’t thrilled with each player automatically gaining 3 money each round, which made money a little too easy to come by. And the ability to offer a dumb choice for the water chooser just so that the chooser doesn’t have to spend money to have a good choice (and therefore won’t pick someone else’s bribe) is kind of annoying.

I am definitely looking forward to trying again. I feel like I was doing everything wrong in the first game until about mid-game. Just about. I still did pretty well. Binyamin had locked up the most number of pieces on this huge potato field. His point count was nigh unassailable, although I came pretty close. Meanwhile, Gili was amassing a lot of points in her hand just by conserving money, which almost worked. Itamar is not a fan of auction games.

Binyamin got his 63 from potatoes and almost nothing else; it was still enough to beat my 27 from potatoes and 24 from peas.

Tigris and Euphrates

Binyamin 6, Adam 5, Itamar 4

I told them they would have to leave by 11:30 when they started this game close to 10:00. Amazingly enough they finished, by concentrating on the treasures.

And this was both Adam’s and Itamar’s first plays, and I had to teach them, which takes a good twenty minutes. Nadine decided to watch the game.

Railway Rivals

Jon 197, Gili 140, Brendan 110

Also with not much time, Brendan brought out a copy of this game. While I can usually not handle more than one new game at a time (BGG.con being the exception), I thought it looked like fun and I like rail games. I didn’t like the rules when he told me there were dice involved in racing, but I figured what the hey? Can’t hurt to try.

In this game, a player rolls a die and then each player draws with a colored pencil that many connections on a big map. After all the cities are connected, or close to all the cities, racing begins. Two cards are drawn from a deck, and the players decide to race between the two cities or not. You can race on your own roads for free, or on other player’s roads by paying $1 for each segment. Winner of the race gets $20, second gets $10. You can also declare that you are joining together with another player and each split the prize.

Doing the math, you can see that a fair number of the races are not even contested, because they happen to be between cities where it it only worthwhile for one person to race. Racing is by roling the dice, otherwise. Since it is cheaper to go on your own roads, you may end up travelling different length paths. Efficient track building to the most number of cities is key to victory.

I found it to be better than I expected. I love connecting cities (with the exception of TransAmerica, which was so easy that it was insipid). and the racing luck element is … well, it’s still not my idea of fun, really, but we used an “averaging die 2/3/3/4/4/5” which evened it out a bit. I would prefer some sort of just-shy-of-deterministic card play/point allocation system.

Brendan didn’t have all of the rules in front of him, so he kept pulling out new rules to throw at us while we were playing (ptttthhhhht!). We didn’t quite end the game, but we had to finish the evening. I was ahead in money.

A few problems: Gili’s starting position was poorly chosen (by the map designer), since after the second 2 was rolled at the beginning of the game she was already stuck while we were free to continue building. Her position wasn’t compensated in any way to make up for that problem. We let her pay her way across the rivers to get out of her startup position (which you otherwise can’t do until later in the game). And Brendan said that we would start racing when almost all cities are connected, instead of all, so as to prevent stalling near the end of that phase. And the die change, as noted above.

Brendan adds:

Remember, this game is still highly played almost 20 years after it won Spiel des Jahres. That says something.

It’s simple, fun, and there are hundreds of maps available (a number designed by me, like my tokyo region map). Some are designed by knowledgeable gamers, some by people just overlaying a grid on a map (there is an awful Mexico map designed by someone who thought altitude= mountainous terrain, forgetting that Mexico is mainly high plateau, so he has made two coastal strips and the centre of Mexico is solid mountains. It makes for an interesting diversion, but is not a sensible map of Mexico, as it does not allow realistic railway net building) . Thus start positions may not be balanced. Given that there is a large postal playing community for this game, many maps are designed for postal play, which irons out some of the problems you identify with the face to face game.

But for me, the point is to learn the geography of an area. Thus in the maps I design, the ‘special runs’ and choice of cities to include on the map are based on research into the economic and railway geography of the area. My series of Australian state maps thus include runs to mine locations etc.

You may have noted that the cities are numbered 11 to 16, 21 to 26 etc up to 66, with 6 special runs.

In postal play, each ‘decade’ thus contains 6 numbers, and each decade will have one race from one of its numbers to a number in each of th other decades.

Thus the 10s decade will have one race to each of the 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, and one to the Specials.

There are 12 rounds: 6 building, 6 racing.

Each building round you get 3 die rolls to build, and all builds in each round are simultaneous.

In racing rounds, each city comes up once in rounds 7-9 and once in rounds 10-12 (so twice overall).

Coupled with the decade groupings above, this ensures an even spread of aces all over the board, and no really short ones between two close cities that only one player has joined efficiently.

Each racing round, 7 races are offered, but each player can only enter 4. (and can then build a decreasing amount of track each turn by paying for it out of their hands: do you build to connect, in the hope of later payoff, or save your money).

So here is a choice as to whether to enter races you can race for free, or ones you can monopolise, or try to compete with others to peg them back.

Also, races winnings can be played as in ftf: $20,$10, nil or via “bus boss scoring” whereby winnings are determined by the number of entrants.

1 player: $3- 2 $20/$10 3 $15, $9, $6 etc 

Thus entering a race even with little chance of winning can at least peg back the winner, whereas not entering, gives him a higher win.

There is also an economic race variant, where you submit a tender. It costs you $1 per hex to enter a race, and an e3xtra $1 to pay a rival to use his track. You then ‘tender’ for the race. The higher the tender, the bigger your profit, but only the two lowest tenders will win, irrespective of distance. So you have to play off a low bid in order to win the tender, vs profit level.

Postal games always use an average die.

In face to face games, we an play that we reroll all ones in building, and every second two, for example, to remove the problem Gili faced at the start,.

Having not played this map before, i didn’t notice the problem . Perhaps we should have started with a roll of at least 4…

See the Ukraine game in my zine for an example of postal play.

A nice coloured map makes for a more aesthetic game too. But I only have my postal play b/w maps with me here, not my coloured original or own-designed maps (coloured, laminated and played on with OHP pens or crayons).


Feb 22, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Elijah, Mace, Shachar, Gili, Ilan, Adam, Nadine, Itamar, Binyamin

This game session was different than any of the previous ones. The last several weeks I had been preparing a campaign world in response to the requests of the other players to run a D&D style roleplaying session. The last two weeks the players have been preparing characters.

Mace is a very old friend of my wife’s who is in Israel for a year, and by coincidence came to his first session on this evening. He brought his son Shachar. Gili brought her husband Ilan just for the roleplaying.

AD&D 2nd Edition

I already knew that the number of players was starting to grow a bit large, but by the time I realized how large it had grown it was too late. Ten people were coming to play, not including me, and not including two more people who were intending to come but couldn’t make it tonight: Josh, and David Klein (who probably won’t be making it to most game nights in the near future, due to work load).

That is entirely too many people to manage. Each person has to be integrated and have something to do. Each player is trying to talk at the same time. Just listening to what each person wants to do during a round of combat takes a few minutes. For sanity’s sake, and for the enjoyment of all involved, a campaign should realy be limited to six players, max.

As I expected, but even worse than I had remembered, combat was long. A few rounds of combat basically ended the remainder of the evening. Pathetic first level characters only hit once every few rounds and the cramped conditions made it all the more difficult for the characters to maneuver. One thing I will say is that I am much happier that I tried to do this in 2e instead of 3e. In 2e, if a player wants to run back and hand a staff to someone else who is running forwards, he says, “I run back and hand the staff to this guy, who is running forwards.” In 3e, you have to check init segments, standard actions, move actions, free actions, attacks of opportunities, and so forth ad nauseum. Blech. Leave the timing to the DM.

Despite the number of players, the session was still pretty enjoyable. Occasionally some of the players were a little bored when they couldn’t reah combat or had nothing else to do.

Player Types

My main objective was to play this game as “ROLE playing”, and not “ROLL playing” or “RULE playing”. Players usually fall into one of these three camps, and shaking them out of it is like herding cats.

ROLE players are there for the story. They range from the melodramatic players who talk in accents, play characters with faults, talk in character, and so forth, to those who just want to get into the history of the story, solve the puzzles and fulfill the missions. This went ok until the combat started, at which point we lost most character personality. A lot of this was my fault, since I should have maintained a rigid descriptive narrative of what was going on, rather than calling players by their names and just saying “roll to hit” and so on.

ROLL players are the guys who min-max their characters. They want to roll dice and kill creatures, and they want to know that they have +15 to hit and +45 damage, preferably swinging 7 attacks every 2 rounds. These guys will rattle off numbers to you. They will measure exact distances, sculpt spells to include only their enemies and exclude their comrades during combat, and so on. My first objective was to thrwart these players, but only to a point. I still had to provide an opportunity for them to whack things with a plus or two, or they would get bored. To handle this, I mentally added or subtracted environmental bonuses and penalties each round, making the exact number of what the player needed to hit indeterminate. Furthermore, I didn’t use minis to mark player locations, so that the players wouldn’t start measuring distances during combat, moving their pieces and then subtly moving them back when they wanted to influence me by logic. This was only partially successful, as the exact idea of what was really happening during combat became confused. Which is how it should be. I’ve also ruled that spell area of effects are going to be slightly variable.

RULE players are the ones who have memorized all the rules to the books and question everything you say or point out how it is not fitting in to the description of the book. If you run something different from what is in the book, they will simply not get it. “An Orc! It’s evil.” “Why do you think it’s evil.” “Orcs are evil. That’s what it says in the book.” “Maybe this is not an evil Orc.” “No, Orcs are evil.” And so on. I warned everyone several times that just about nothing I do is going to be from the book, but it still didn’t help with these guys (well, just one guy, actually). These guys are funny, because you can watch them throw away +5 Holy Avenger swords by simply changing the description of the sword to something that they don’t recognize and throwing an Undetectable Aura spell on it. They won’t even bother to examine it further, because they “know” already that it is junk. My philosophy is to just stare them down and repeat what I said a few times.

Pre-game

The players had created the following:

  • Brendan: Kalbald, a Dwarven Thief
  • Elijah: Garbado a Halfling Fighter
  • Shachar: Shalamar an Elven Druid
  • Mace: Dirk, an Elven Ranger
  • Gili: Graily, a Half Elven Cleric
  • Ilan: Calron an Elven Ranger
  • Adam: Leo a Human Thief
  • Nadine: Gladys, a Human Druid (the only female)
  • Itamar: Seorin, an Elven Fighter/Thief
  • Binyamin: Baldarin, an Elven Mage

The characters were instructed to assign proficiencies, weapon and non-weapon, and to have a personality, but not to have any character background or equipment. The only info I gave them about the world was that it was a wilderness adventure with political intrigue.

It’s tough assigning weapon proficiencies when you don’t know what weapons are available in the world, and also tough to figure out some of the non-weapon proficiencies, such as “ancient lenguages”, with no character background. But they managed.

Some rules I also added: Fighters could specialize and double specialize. Clerics needed to eventually talk to me about their spells when we get to a relevant part of the game. Mages needed spell books and could specialize also. Because they are so pathetic, I gave them Detect Magic and Read Magic at will, for free. Thieves had to distribute their sixty percentage points.

Before starting the game, I gave them one more warning: the beginning of this adventure would be grim and they may feel like I ganged up on them and debilitated their characters too much. They should hang on, because they will be able to get out of their predicament whole and sound in a little while. I said this to prevent them from throwing coke bottles and dice at me after I started them in the game.

I make fun of the players a little here, but the truth is that I have more information than they do, so I can’t really expect them to always do the thing that seems obvious to me. But I can’t help myself.

The Game: The Starting Point

The first sensation they have is darkness; not absolute darkness, but the darkness of closed eyelids against a bright light. The next sensation is pain, and heat. And no memory.

Yeah, the old “no memory” start, but it can still be used effectively. This is only the second campaign in which I’ve used it.

The explanation continues: All humans have clothes and a single weapon of their choice. That’s it. All non-humans are naked, whipped, and damaged down to three hit points.

All characters remember their own names and a basic idea about their own skills. The two humans feel that the other human is familiar to them, but they don’t recognize the non-humans. Similarly, the non-humans feel a recognition of the other non-humans, but not the humans.

They find themselves outside in the noon-day late summer heat. They are thirsty. The environment is steppes – dry ground, withered grass, very sparse shade, about a half a mile to the nearest tree. To the south (some of them had direction sense) the steppes continue. To both the southeast and southwest on the horizon they can make out something red and small, not moving. To the north and northwest they can see the land change to hills and somewhat more vegetation, eventually.

Their stomachs hurt, but Kalbald, Seaorin, and Baldarin’s stomachs hurt them more than the others. These three are also slightly nauseous, and they feel something stuck in their throats. They can’t see anything looking down the throat.

And oh, yes, lying on the ground near their feet are a few more non-human bodies. Most are just killed due to damage, but one is burnt to a crisp. Near his/her body (probably Elven) is a small winged body, also burned to a crisp.

The players took stock and introduced themselves. They dug around looking for something buried but didn’t find anything. They examined the bodies and didn’t find anything. Some wanted to continue digging for a half an hour or more, but Leo decided to start walking to the nearest tree, which was also in the direction of the hills. The others followed.

The tree turned out to be a ten foot Juniper bush. Thorny, and able to provide shade only if they hacked off the lower branches. The branches were not much use as weapons. Graily wanted to climb the tree to have a look around, but it was not able to support his weight.

Dirk wanted to know if he could make a bow and arrows out of the branches since he has the Bowyer/Fletcher skill.

I stare at Mace. “Uh, given a few weeks of time, no.”

The Game: The Company of Humans

By 2:00 pm, and even thirstier, they came within sight of a road going from east-northeast to west-southwest. The road served as a division between the hills and the steppes. In other words, they have been walking from the steppes in the direction of the hills approximately north-northwest, directly perpendicular to the road. The road was very straight, and even cut through hills and filled up dips when necessary. Visibility was about two miles in either direction, a little less northwards into the hills. There was little cover near the road, except an odd bush or two.

As they approached the road, they heard something coming from the east. Kalbald decided to hide behind a bush, the others also realized they were not decent (no clothes). They crossed the road to the north side, argued for a bit. The sound turned out to be a company of humans, including at least two riding, one on a horse, and one on something else.

The party continued to discuss what to do. When the company was within one mile of them, they noticed it had about twenty armed humans marching quickly in formation. The humans were wearing heralds over chain mail. Baldarin, who has heraldry, thought the crest looked familiar, but couldn’t quite place the picture. It showed a human figure with a beaming face and uplifted fist.

The non-humans decided to lie down on the side of the road in a non- threatening sleep-like state, while the two humans with charismas of 16 and 18 greeted the humans. The armed company began to run when they were close to the party. Eighteen figures surrounded the two humans, and two were sent to stand over the non-humans. All were armed with drawn weapons. All also had bows. The two riders were riding a horse and a lion. The horseman got off and approached Gladys. He appeared to be a commander of some sort.

Nadine rolled a 2 for reaction adjustment. Sometimes even a good Charisma won’t help you!

“Who are you?” barked the commander. “What are you doing here with this filthy lot of escaped slaves? Are you flithy slave freeers?” He spat. “Answer me!”

Glady tried to explain that they woke up with no knowledge of how they got there and so on.

“Liars!” he yelled. “Grab her!” She is grabbed. “Tell the truth or I will cut off your hand! Who is your Lord? Where are you from? What are you doing with these slaves?” A soldier moved his sword to her wrist.

Gladys said that she couln’t answer any differently, and what could she say that would help.

“Cut off her hand!” ordered the commander. And off came Glady’s hand. Nadine looked shocked. She fell screaming in the dirt. The soldiers wrapped a cloth around her stump.

The commander turned on Leo “What about you? Tell me the truth! Where are you from? Who is your Lord?”

Leo fell on his knees and begged for mercy. The soldiers batted him on the back and head. The commander shouted, calling his soldiers by name, and was responded to by name from his soldiers. The commander ordered all the characters to be tied up, and pressed the soldiers that they had to reach Poxnard’s still today and continue on eastwards. Kalbald tried to hide behind his bush but was spotted. Dirk successfully pretended to be unconscious. He was tied up, and his body thrown on the horse. The human characters were double-guarded with drawn weapons. The march continued to the west.

The Game: Poxnard’s

A few miles of marching and the company came to a fork in the road. Sometime during this march they had seen something winging overhead, but it was too far away to see properly. During this time, the characters had considered trying to escape, but decided against it. At the fork, the main road continued, and a less paved road split off to the right, due west. A hill rose between the two roads. A sign at the fork read “Poxnard’s Resevoir and Lookout”. They took the fork.

The vegetation increased considerably and the road eventually turned north until it turned west again right into a small fort, about 100 yards around in a circle. Off to their right (north) the land fell away in a cliff down to water, although they could see it rising again on the other side not too far off. To their left was a hill. Ahead the road went right through the fort. A door to the fort opened.

The company travelled into the fort. There were buildings on the right and left. Ahead, the road crossed a bridge over a ravine. The drop to the ravine was about sixty feet. The walls went up to the ravine on either side, and continued on the other side to complete the fort. The road continued on the other side of the ravine to go out the fort through another door. Within the fort on the other side of the ravine, to the right was another building, and to the left was a stables and a fenced in area with horses running around.

          ~~Resevoir~~
        -----....------ --Wall
Slaves--|-XX \../ X X-|--Houses
House   |     ||      |
      ==|================---Road
        |____ ||  X X-|--Houses
        |  X \||   X  |
Stable--|-   |||      |---Wall
        ------||-------

The commander of the fort came out to talk to the commander of the patrol. They greeted each other by name, talked about schedules and time and how they had to press onwards. They started to argue but nobody asked me any particular details about the argument, so I need not repeat them here. The characters were lead to the slave house. The slave house was a 60 by 30 foot building with barred windows on all sides. The entrance was through a door seven feet in from the right side along one of the wide sides. The door pulled out. Inside the door was a five by ten room with a desk on the far side, a chest, bookcases, and so on. Opposite the door was another door leading into a room that occupied the remaining area of the building.

They filed through the small room into the main room that stank with straw and worse on the floor. They were left tied up and the door to the small room was pushed back and locked. The house was made of strong wood, the door was solid, the bars were made of metal. It was about 6:30 pm and getting dark. The moon was coming out and it’s a clear night.

The commanders argued again outside. One of them yelled that they must continue on their patrols or Aimee will be displeased. Again, since nobody told me that they cared to listen to the rest of the argument, the rest of the argument wasn’t overheard. Eventually the patrol marched off.

The players listened politely when I said that the argument was going with raised voices, but didn’t seem interested in trying to hear any more than that. I did mention that the campaign contains political intrigue, didn’t I?

The Game: The Slave House

The players quickly untied themselves but tried to make it look like they were still tied up. Every time they made noise, one of the two guards yelled at them to shut up. One guard was at the window on the same wall as the outside door, and the other was at the window on the side of the house you reached if you continued past the door and turned left around the house (also overlooking the resevoir).

Let’s see if I can remember all of the wierd things they did here …

Baldarin tried to talk to a guard and tell them the non-humans were fighting with the humans, but got his face spit upon.

Garbado called out that he hates humans, and got an arrow shot at him. The arrow broke, but the party kept the arrow head. The guards started arguing after that and then it quieted down.

Kalbald tried ventriloquism to get the guards to argue some more, without success.

Dirk tried to use the arrow head to gouge a hole around one of the bars by the window, intending to pull the bars out with the rope.

Lots of other things that mostly brought attention upon them from the guards, who kept yelling at them to shut up.

By this time, Kalbald, Seaorin, and Baldarin were feeling very sick. Around 9:00 or 9:30, all three threw up. Before they could even say that they searched the vomit, I told them that something blue and gem- like was visible in Baldarin’s, green in Kalbald’s, and purple in Seaorin’s. the light was low, and infravision only detects heat, not full sight (I had to say that many times during the course of the evening) but they could see these easily enough.

Baldarin eventually detected that they were magical. They finally touched them. As they were touched, the blue one flashed and turned into a scroll tube, the green one into a small creature that looked like a small dragon, but with bluish black feathers (all but around twenty of the feathers were missing), and the purple one into a ring. By the light of the moon, they could see that the ring was very beautiful, with a diamond, and a twisted wire band.

And no, you don’t have enough light to appraise the value. Sheesh.

They opened the tube and found it to be in Orcish, which noone could read. The thieves tried to read it, but only Kalbald had any success, and just partial. Holding it up to a window, it read as follows:

To my faithful friends, …It is with a … heart that I write this …, … it will only be read if our … indeed come about. I have … this letter in Baldarin’s throat as the only means … that it will … should you have failed your mission and fallen into … hands, as I have forseen.

… friends …, … citizens and …, and not the least I, your friend these many years, grieve that it has … … in the end. I can only hope that there is a chance … … foul … in some way, although undoubtedly not … .

If you have …, it is … to that which I warned you: Kalbald’s and Seaorin’s feud has … your efforts … . The many and … you have each … against the other were finally … to your common cause. I will not repeat these … here; I can only hope that whatever … is … upon you at least erases them from your memory. I … you now, as I did before, to seek … is possible and, let the past lie.

If you have survived, I can only hope that you are still on this Aerth. If you are, please look for me. Seek out the … Winmyr within my country; she will tell you … . I have hidden my ring, Ilsonidir, within Searoin as I hid this letter. Use it as … of your identity. I have also … a few other items to aid you if you have survived:

Patrus had been hidden within Kalbald’s … . I’m sure I do not have to tell you to use him … . I would be … to see him … to me.

I have … your spellbooks and magic equipment and … them all within Tempest’s … . After you have … them, invoke my name to restore them to their … . Note Baldarin that I have added a few spells that you may need as a gift to you. … . I have copied an … of spells in return, … .

… you have been sent beyond my lifespan, I fear to leave any … …, but so be it. This is my only hope of surviving to … should you return. After … I will hide … the location of the Wanestone, should I recover it before … can. It is your only hope of returning to you what has been lost: … , your land, your very selves, … .

For your own survival, I … that you will be able to put aside your … and find it … . I fear that if one of you fails, you will likely all fail.

… .

Your friend,
Llanowyn
Queen of Aeronwir

P.S. Please drop and stand back from this … after reading this postscript.

Kalbald dropped the letter, and Dirk made a valiant attempt to place the letter on the bars he had been sawing before five seconds passed, but he didn’t make it. It flashed and burned up into nothingness.

Now they spent more time discussing the contents. Binyamin complained that he couldn’t understand what I said since I spoke in English. They tried to figure out who Tempest was, and tried calling the gaurd by the name “Tempest”, who told them to shut up. Brendan took this to mean that the guard’s name was Tempest and should be recruited to their side.

Patrus, they figured, is the little reptile/bird thing who was crawling over Kalbald’s head and chirping “Meep! Meep!”. Much discussion. Eventually they plucked out one of his feathers. It came out with a black drop hanging off the end. Much discussion. Use it to drip on the bars? Spread on your hands? Kalbald put it on his hands and it tingled and smelled ok. He touched his tongue to it and it made him feel nice. He licked it up and was totally cured and never felt better. In fact, he felt like he was even more healthy than normal by some amount.

“How much?” “More.” “But how many hit points?” “More.” “But what should he write for hit points?” “More.” But how do we kow how many hit points he has?” “More.” “But …” (repeat for two minutes)

All players except Leo took a feather and were healed up, and Gladys even had a new hand pop out!

“What do we do with the hand that was cut off?” “You don’t have it.” “But we took the hand.” “No you didn’t.” “But surely we would have taken the hand.” “You didn’t.” “Didn’t we take the hand?” “No.” “But …”

David Klein doesn’t like it when I add these “rescue the newbie” deus ex machina mechanisms, like a magic healing lizard bird. But many of these are totally new players, and I wanted them to have a reasonable start. It also fits the plot, nicely.

Around 10:00 pm, the door opened (inwards, no space to hide behind it) and they saw a figure in the door. He began casting a spell. Dirk tried to move silently and hide in shadows behind the wall around the corner from the door. The spell was cast and a cloud of acid enveloped the area around the goblin who screamed and then dropped dead. The mage mumbled to himself and closed the door. Dirk tried to throw a rope around the Mage before he could retreat (!!!) and missed by enough distance that he didn’t give himself away to the enemy for no particular purpose.

About this point I told the group: “The railroading is done. You’re on your own now.” It wasn’t quite true that I had been railroading them. They could have gone in any direction after waking up, and they could have avoided the patrol, if they tried. I was ready for other contingencies. But they pretty much did what I expected them to, and that was good, because it produced the most dramatic results.

Around midnight, our brave heroes went into action.

The Game: The Battle

Garbado and Seaorin rushed the door. Seaorin bounced, but Garbado broke through. The Mage was sitting at his desk and turned around, surprised. One of the guards outside jumped up.

Garbado, Dirk, and Calron jumped on the Mage, while Seaorin went to the far door. The room was already crowded, now. Graily tried to slip around the bookcases.

Dirk and Calron tried to subdue the Mage while Garbado was just bashing him. The Mage bashed back pretty well.

“But he’s a Mage.” “He hit.” “But he’s weak, he’s a Mage.” “He hit.” “Isn’t he weak?” “He hit.” “Whoever heard of a Mage that can hit?” “He hit.” “He must be a high level Mage if he can hit.” “He hit.” …

They eventually took him down. Meanwhile, Seaorin went from the door to the chest and ripped open the lock. He found clothes, soap, sewing stuff, and a scroll tube. Baldarin detected magic around the room (he couldn’t get the bookshelves because they were behind the door) and saw only something in the chest. When Seaorin picked up the scroll tube, Baldarin asked to have it thrown to him. Seaorin threw fine, Baldarin dropped it, and then picked it up. It turned out to be some sort of acid jet spell.

Seaorin then got dressed, He also found various books on the shelves, some with titles, some with picures on the spines, some clearly about history, botany, races, and so on.

Meanwhile, Kalbald tried to talk to the guard outside the window again, calling him “Tempest”. The guard stabbed him with a sword, tried again and hit the bars and then ran to the door, shouting “Help! Alert!”. Graily opened the door on him. She fought. Dirk picked up a staff and fought, with no proficiency. He retreated and let Shalamar move up, who had proficiency with staff. Seaorin tried to throw the soap under the guard’s feet, but missed. Graily threw himself at the guards feet and hit, which destabilized her, but didn’t knock her down. They eventually killed her, but before Garbado went down (after losing many more hit points than normal). After prompting by the DM, Gladys detected a pulse still with her healing proficiency, and kept him from dying, temporarily. He is now unconscious.

Kalbald sat on the subdued Mage. Garbado tried to open the drawers, but they were locked. Dirk found the keys in the Mage’s pocket and handed them to Kalbald who opened the drawers while Dirk tied up the Mage. They eventually stabbed the Mage to death while he was bound up and unconscious. In the drawers, they found gold, scroll tubes, and a forty page book. They passed the tubes and book to Baldarin.

The scrolls all contained business or personal letters. The book looks like a spell book, but doesn’t detect magic.

“So it’s not a spellbook. Where could the spellbook be?” “Why isn’t it a spellbook?” “It doesn’t detect magic.” “So?” “Spellbooks detect magic. Maybe the spellbook is in another building?” “Who says spellbooks detect magic?” “OK, Try detecting magic again. Any magic on the book?” “No.” “See? It’s not a spellbook. Spellbooks detect magic.”

OK, I’m being a little unfair here. Although they should really ask me before assuming that spellbooks MUST detect magic, I assume that the character would know that no, spellbooks do not necessarily detect magic in this world.

Graily then went out and found the other guard in a drunken stupor. He wailed him on the head with a rock and dragged him back inside, closing the door behind him, but not before they saw the lights on in one of the other buildings. The alert was heard!

The next three rounds were spent getting the chainmail three fifths of the way off of the two guards. Also Balamir spent this time going through the scrolls and starting to read the book-that-looked- like-a-spellbook-but-didn’t-detect-magic. The first two pages he couldn’t read, but the titles of the next two red “Jervis’s acidic spray”, and the next two read “Jervis’s spell for altering the perception of others with regards to oneself”. There are still some other pages with text on them, as yet unread.

Somewhere across the fort, a door slammed open.

And that’s where we left off. As I said, sometimes people were bored, but I think everyone got to do something tonight at some point. Here is how I measure it:

Brendan: Kalbald – Tried some interesting things, and was unsuccessful with his thieving skills. Read some Orcish. First tasted Patrus blood and found the gold. He earns 440 x.p.

Elijah: Garbado – Knocked open a door and fought bravely. If he survives, he earns 440 x.p.

Shachar: Shalamar – Fought bravely and well with his staff. He earns 410 x.p.

Mace: Dirk – Subdued the Mage. Fought a guard with a non-proficient weapon. Provided some ideas. Foolishly tried to attack the Mage in the doorway. Earns 420 x.p.

Gili: Graily – Wanted to climb a tree, faced one guard and knocked out another. Earns 440 x.p.

Ilan: Calron – Fought the Mage, and found the Mage’s keys. Earns 430 x.p.

Adam: Leo – Began walking towards the hills. Prudently surrendered in the face of danger. Provided some good ideas. Earns 420 x.p.

Nadine: Gladys – Bravely faced a patrol and failed a chrisma check. Lost a hand and regained it. Applied healing skill, but only at the DM’s prompting. Earns 410 x.p.

Itamar: Seorin – Failed to open a door. Opened and checked out a chest and shelves. Found a magic item. Dressed himself. Earns 410 x.p.

Binyamin: Baldarin – Tried to use Heraldry. Detected some magic. Determined a scroll. Feels capable of understanding some of what is written in some of the books. Earns 420 x.p.

That’s the lot. Here’s the loot:

125 s.p. 50 g.p. Two sets of chainmail and shields on bodies. Three sets of robes and five sets of other clothing, including hats and boots. Three pouches. Tinder and flint, Three daggers and scabbards. Two short swords and scabbards. Soap. Scroll tubes with personal letters. Twenty two books. Oil lamp and spare oil. Keys. Broken chest and desk. Bucket. Staff. Six water/wine skins, three with water and one with wine. A scroll with an acid stream spell. Lengths of rope. A lizard/bird with seven feathers. A diamond ring with a twisted wire band. Bell. Paper. Chalk. Sewing Kit. Small dirty towel.

Now we need to discuss where we go from here.

San Marco

Jon 50+, Adam 40+, Binyamin 40+

I thought we still had some time, so we played this. However, Binyamin found it hard to make decisions here, so the game took a really long time. For some reason, this game just clicks with me.

Not that this will help yo much, but Binyamin pretty much stuck to the right side of the board, Adam to the left, and I took second place in both halves.


Feb 15, 2006

Participants: Jon, Elijah, Nadine, Josh, Adam, Rachel

A number of people couldn’t make it, some because of the threat of a snowstorm which never materialized. Nevertheless, we had a very nice evening playing two solid games.

We also had a newcomer, Adam, whose previous game experience was pre-Euro. Adam got thrown straight into the thick of complex Eurogames and did quite well. I think he enjoyed it and will return.

Power Grid

Nadine 16, Jon 15, Josh 14, Elijah 10, Adam 9

It seems my lot in life to come in second place in this game, and Nadine’s to win. I always feel I’m doing ok and then a few rounds before the game ends I realize that I can’t catch up, either in plants or cities.

Elijah, Josh, and Adam were the new players (Elijah had played once, actually) and bought too many middling plants. By the end of the game they were sorely shy in production capacity. Meanwhile, I thought I did ok buying only two small plants and then a large one. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to secure the remaining large ones. I managed to get to 15 production by the last turn buying only the biggest plants.

But Nadine was already at 16, and had little problem building to 16 cities to end the game. Nadine started out with lots of coal plants. We were all so sure that coal would run out that we avoided it, so it didn’t run out. Elijah had some Green plants going, and Adam and Josh were first for garbage. Adam then switched to all nukes and was the only nuke user, buying three nukes for $6 each round.

We all enjoyed it very much, and even managed to finish before Elijah had to go.

Puerto Rico

Rachel 56, Jon 53, Adam 53, Nadine 49, Josh 44

Rachel was around, and despite my misgivings about subjecting Adam to yet another complex game, we played Puerto Rico. Still a great game after thousands of plays. However, Nadine, Rachel, and I were giving out so much advice that I had to start calling us on it and insisting that the new guys be allowed to make their own mistakes.

For all that they did darn well. Things change in five player enough that buildings usually not worth much are possibly useful. Wharves were built, the Trading Post (the only building change I used) helped Josh a lot, as did Large Indigo for Rachel.

Adam was running coffee in front of Nadine, Rachel was running sugar in front of me, and I was running tobacco in front of Josh. We all ended with a large building. Adam had coffee, Factory and Wharf, Nadine had Factory and Guild Hall, Rachel had Harbor and Small Warehouse, as did I, and Josh had Wharf and Trading Post.

The goods were running out all over the place, which I think is a good part of the game, and something rarely seen outside of five player games. Nadine ended up having to end the game either by letting Rachel ship six indigo or me ship 5 corn. The former prevented both of us from shipping twice, so was the better move, but ended up making the difference between Rachel or me winning.

Again, Adam seemed to have a good time. So we hope to see him again. Next week will be some roleplaying.


Feb 08, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Binyamin, Gili, Elijah, Nadine

Tonight was a very unusual night in that it was the first night of preparation for our eventual role-playing sessions. To that end, we spent the first 45 minutes running over the rules and concept of role-playing and creating characters.

AD&D 2nd edition

Here is the email I sent describing the rules:

OK, I think we will be using 2e rules, basically. I would prefer to use my own system (link to it on my blog), but maybe some other time.

However, I will be cutting a lot of the rules out of the system, some of them because I don’t like them, and some of them due to the nature of the campaign you will be playing.

The campaign will start two weeks from this Wed night. We will play one evening and see how it goes. If the majority want to continue, we will continue again three weeks after that. I don’t want to cause problems with the board game group.

Here are the basic changes you can expect:

STARTING

You are all starting at 1st level with exactly 1 experience point.

All players have stats as follows: 18, 16, 14, 13, 12, 10. You may arrange these stats however you like. There will be no changes to these stats, period. However, if you prefer to roll for stats, you may roll in front of me sometime during the next two weeks at the club. The rolling method will be: 5d6, drop the lowest two dice. Roll six times, arrange as you like. If you choose to roll, you cannot use the default numbers. If you don’t like the results, try to remember that this is a ROLEplaying game, not a ROLLplaying game, and the fun you derive from the game is not how often you succeed in your rolls.

Racial changes can apply to your stats, but no stat can be raised higher than 18, period. That includes fighter strength. I am not playing with percentile Strength. 18 is the limit.

All limitations in the stats apply. Non-fighters do not get Con bonus higher than +2. I will be checking your carrying capacity. You have to record your languages, allowable number of spells, and so forth. Charisma will only be used for reaction rolls. If your party meets a group of people, your reaction roll will be based on the median Charisma score of your party.

I will not be playing with alignments or any alignment oriented abilities or spells.

However, do consider the personality of your character. I expect characters full of personality. DO NOT bother with any other character background or equipment. These will be supplied.

I am playing with proficiencies and weapon specialization. Non-combat proficiencies are also required. I suggest you align them to what may be a grand wilderness adventure in a land with plenty of political intrigue (circa 13th century equivalent in technology). Please don’t try to use any science or other anachronistic solutions to various problems.

MAGIC

All magic users can cast Detect Magic and Read Magic at will. There are no spell components. Spellbooks will be required when appropriate, however. Information about how to copy spells and use spellbooks and so on will be given during the adventure.

All spells have a casting length of one round, unless they specify that they take more than one round to cast. Spell area of effect is approximate and may vary from time to time. You cannot sculpt a spell, not only because the power of a spell varies, but because people move around. Just tell me approximately where you are centering it.

Ask me about illusions if you plan on using them. As a note, Phantasamal Force cannot create the illusion of sound, smell, or heat, and therefore will not work very well for creatures, fires, or virtually anything else that moves unless it appears to be in the distance.

CLERICS

Clerics gain the ability to swap out spells for a heal spell, like 3e. You do not have to specify a religion for your character.

COMBAT

Rounds are an indeterminate length that is not specified, but the usual sorts of things can be accomplished: an attack, a spell, some movement, retrieving an item from your backpack, and so on.

– All players inform me what they intend to do during the round.

– Spellcasters begin casting spells.

– Your party rolls for initiative vs your opponents.

– Non-spellcasters on either side do what they said. Players with shorter actions or weapon speeds of 4 or less always go first. Players with weapon speeds of 8 or more always go last.

– Spells go off.

EXPERIENCE

WIll be awarded for encounters (fought or unfought), traps, puzzles, unusual treasures, and general situation management. Individuals may gain more xp than others. Expect about 400 xp/night under normal circumstances.

More when I think about it. Please send me full details of your character, including name, stats, race, physical description, plusses, saving throws, THACO, proficiencies, abilities, and so on, if you can. Anyone who hasn’t done this before can do it with me during one of the next two weeks.

And some followup questions:

> Also I wanted to know what races are you using and what other classes other > then mages?

Races in 2nd player handbook. (Human, Elf, 1/2 Elf, Dwarf, Gnome, Halfling)

Classes in 2nd player handbook. (Fighter, Paladin, Ranger, Cleric, Druid, Mage, Rogue, Bard).

> Also do you play whit multi class characters? May be it would be easier to > start whit something simpler then a mage and then add it later? And do I > understand right that mages are very limited and not so useful in your > world?

Multiclassing (simultaneous classes) in 2e is only for non-humans. You can multiclass if you like. Dual-classing (one class, and then the next class) in 2e is for humans only, and not recommended. (3e made dual-classing absurdly simple and is one of the reasons that I hate it).

> What class would you recommend as well fitted to your campaign, bard? > Ranger? Druid? I would prefer a class whit magic but if it has no roll in > your world I better give it up on the start and not get frustrated all the > campaign that I don’t have what to do.

Any. Magic will have a strong roll in the world, but is MUCH harder to come by in 2e than in 3e, and even more so in my campaign. All of the other classes are similarly crippled in 2e compared to 3e, by the way. My campaign will have combat, but there will be a lot of other things to do. And, if you are so lucky enough as to acquire any spells that can be used in combat, you will have something to do during combat, as well.

Everyone took the prerolled stats, except Gili. She rolled and came up with stats pretty similar (slightly worse) but hey, at least they were different.

Gili created Graily, a male Elven cleric.

Elijah created Slingfoot, a male Halfling fighter.

Brendan created Kalbald the Insidious, a male Dwarven thief.

Nadine created a currently nameless and sexless Human druid.

Binyamin created a male Half-Elven mage.

Quite a mix. I can’t wait to see the rest of the characters. As of now, I anticipate at least the addition of David Klein, Itamar, Ilan (Gili’s husband), Josh, and possibly Ben and/or others.

Next week we will continue creating characters, and the week after we will play. Maybe not the whole evening, but most of it. It depends how it goes. In the meantime, if you want to create your character at home, feel free to do so. You can roll for hit points, minimum 1/2 rounded up.

Ticket to Ride

Elijah 121, Nadine 89, Gili 83, Brendan 63

In the meantime, Binyamin keeps bringing new games every week. This is one of them. I had already played TtR:Europe, and Binyamin wanted to play Goa, which I won’t play with 3, so these 4 played here.

As you can see, it was kind of a landslide for Elijah as he got the really long routes and longest path, as well. First game and all, and people weren’t mean enough to block him. Also, he got lucky getting those routes. This type of luck can be mitigated by having players draw N and keep N-1 cards. You just have to find the best N.

Goa

Binyamin 46, Jon 42

I’m famously not a bit fan of Goa, but it works best with 2 in my opinion. So I agreed to play with Binyamin. The auctions worked very well. In a 2 player game, about half of the auctions are bought by the owner, which just never happens in 3 or 4 players. That made money a critical part of the game.

I did a lot of expeditions, and Binyamin took control of the money, enough to really do damage in the auctions. The last round of the game he got the flag and both tiles, each of which was 2 actions. He and I were sitting just a few points from each other, and he was trying to remember if he needed to take money to steal most points for money at the end of the game or to try for points elsewhere. He chose correctly, taking the money and swinging a victory because of it.

I still don’t like the game that much. It is so mechanical and the theme is just invisible, which I don’t feel with other games of this sort, like El Grande, Puerto Rico, and Tigris and Euphrates. Also, I refused to play with most of the luck elements: no flipping cards, just add four to your colony attempt (if we had played card flipping, I would have loathed the game); and drawing two cards, discard one. Another change I make in 2 player is leaving the middle tile empty when filling the board, so that the starting player can go there if they want. The “flip an extra card” expedition card becomes “add two colonists”.

San Marco

Elijah/Jon 70, Brendan 56, Nadine 48, Gili 44

TtR is much shorter than Goa, so they started another game that Binyamin brought. He wasn’t too happy about it, as he had wanted to play, too, but I thought they could probably get it done before we finished Goa anyway.

Elijah had to leave before the last third of the game. He was second place by ten points, and only a few points ahead of Nadine in third place. Gili trailed by a wide margin. By this time we had finished Goa, so while Binyamin went over his character, I took over for Elijah.

For some reason this game just clicks with me. It didn’t hurt that Nadine and Gili were first time players and didn’t know all of the rules, like scoring an additional time when the game ends. Still, they concentrated too much on interim scoring leaving me a lot of the control cards. I ended with 8 points from the gray numbers, and a lot of first places, having hammered at Brendan as much as possible in favor of Gili. Nadine had also been hammering at Brendan. That left me free to scoot ahead in the final scoring.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Jon+, Binyamin

Without enough time and players to play San Marco again, I taught Binyamin to play this light game. I played dark for the first time. I finally have all of the rules correct (like the Nazgul can only attack a space with a single character). We traded foes back and forth in the middle, with a number of close numerical battles won by a single point.

Then I saw a hole in Binyamin’s flank. The Nazgul hit the space just outside the Shire, the Balrog left the mountains and retreated sideways around his opponent, and then the Dark Riders went all the way from Mordor to the Shire in a single attack. Since Aragon was already dead, there was nothing left to stop me from walzing into the Shire within three more turns, while Mordor was still defended by the Witch King and Saruman. First time I saw a win that way.

Until next week.


Feb 01, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Elijah, Binyamin, Itamar, Michal, Gili, Nadine

We’re still working our way through our new games, and now Binyamin is bringing over new games from his immense new shipment of 13 games. So, lots of new stuff to get through.

In the meantime, I had intended to begin this session as the first in our roleplaying sessions in response to our member’s requests. I was trying to move away from the old D&D system, which is the only system that I’ve played, and which I’m pretty sick of (mostly because of 3e). So I proposed a new system that is a blend of Children of Fire and some simple d6 skill checks only to have it nixed by the members who want to play straight D&D. They agreed to go 1e, at least. Owing to a number of scheduling problems, we may be able to begin rolling up characters but won’t be able to start playing for a while, yet.

I also tried to explain Magic to my members, most of whom have never played. However, Brendan, who is the only one who has played, was totally uninterested. And I was still eager to try some of the newer games. So, although I set up some decks, explained the rules, and went through a round or two, we put the cards aside after that and went back to board games. Maybe some other time.

Lor of the Rings:the Confrontation

Jon+,Brendan

I set this up for my first arrival, having received it back from Saarya, who had borrowed it. As usual, I played White; I haven’t played black, yet. Brendan was playing his first game, which was as good an excuse as any after I won. I was very lucky to kill the Orcs with Gimli and the Nazgul with Legolas, both of which had never happened for me before. Brendan was eventually down to two pieces, and Frodo was able to quietly slip into Mordor.

Maharaja

Jon+, Nadine, Brendan, Binyamin

After reading the rules, this looked like a really good game, so I was eager to try it out. The rest of the game group wanted to play either this or Power Grid, so that worked out.

I didn’t notice after only reading the rules, but one of the main mechanics in the game is blind move selection ala El Grande castillo. Each round is a repetition of selecting the two action sets that you will be performing this coming round. Unless you are going first, there is a small amount of chaos that may affect your move, but the chaos level is fairly low, and the major possible changes are that you’ll end up with more money than you expected or lose a barely significant village space.

The other major mechanics are area control, role selection, and route selection. Each round you can build houses, either to affect control in an area or claim tollbooths on the routes, or build palaces also to exert control, or take houses from the provinces to your court (oops, that’s El Grande again), or take some money, or change the order of area scoring, or trade roles with another player or the bank. The roles provide turn order as well as special abilities, such as paying less for a palace or travelling for free. The game is won by the first player to get seven palaces, or, if two get seven palaces, by the person with the most money. The game is also limited to ten rounds, max.

In a few words, I loved it. It is a really excellent game, with tough choices, limited actions, and continuous racing around the board. Like other great games, there are a lot of things that you have to do to establish your base, but only one of them counts towards winning the game, namely your palaces. There are many many paths to victories, either by trying to rule a few areas with high payoff, or multiple areas with lesser payoffs, or by controlling routes, altering scoring order, and so on.

Binyamin didn’t like that only palaces count for scoring, as he thinks that games should be more like “Knizia” with multiple scoring opportunities. Nadine was concerned that a clear early game success, which has minor (medium in Nadine’s opinion) luck, is indicative of who will win at the end. I disagree, of course, and seeing as this was only our first game, I hope to see this proved in future games.

A wierd annoyance I experienced was my fellow players trying to prove that “this” person is winning near the end of the game, so that there is no point in finishing the game. This happened here and also in Power Grid, and often happens in other games. While this is true in some games, it is also true that games are often too close to call so precisely, and especially in the first playing of a comlex game, even if it looks like someone will win, there can be upsets.

Nadine writes:

There wasn’t anything we could do to block Jon from winning once he was so far ahead on money, but Maharaja isn’t necessarily as uneven as we think, and experience should help. But it just seems not fun. Maybe because 3 people lose every round, and even if you win you’re still getting behind in money almost every round.

[More below …]

We played without the seventh role. We started off playing with the variant of giving a player +1 influence in the city that matched their role, but I think we forgot that rule as the game progressed. Unlike the other players, I spent more of the first few turns establishing paths to the midgame scoring cities and placing my influence in these cities. As a result, the other players handed me wads of cash after the first turn travelling on my routes and losing the areas in which I was already leading. This cash at the beginning then allowed me to play palaces every round while still getting back the money by winning the areas. It also helped to have the “pay less for palaces” role for several turns.

Nevertheless, the game came down to the wire as Nadine was also winning a lot of areas and had just as many palaces built as I had. Only through some last turn maneuvering and some luck was I able to pull off a victory on the tie.

Brendan also built some excellent route connections, especially the oft overlooked ring-road. However, he was a turn behind in cash and palaces, and so out of the running. Binyamin was in a similar situation, but he had more area control and less route control, so was paying out to other players to travel around.

Like Primoridial Soup, there may be a bit of a runaway winner situation, but, like Primoridial Soup, that may have more to do with the fact that people didn’t begin to gang up on me until it was too late. With more experience, the games should be tighter.

Power Grid

Gili 17, Elijah/Jon 16, Michal 15, Itamar 14

Great enthusiasm for this game contiunes. Gili wanted to play again, and, as the only experienced player, managed a clean victory. Elijah had to leave close to the end of the game, so I played his last two rounds.

Elijah’s position wasn’t great with only middle-sized plants. I held back on my last cities in the second to last round, and then bought a 7 city plant and built to 17 cities. This wasn’t enough to beat Gili. My combined plant outage was only 16, and hers was 17, and she went into the last round only needing to build 3 cities.

Geschenkt

Jon+, Nadine, Brendan, Binyamin

Nadine+, Jon, Brendan, Binyamin

This was brought by Binyamin, and was the first time we actually played with the real game, as opposed to a mock-up. Brendan was confused about the rules in the first game and thought all runs were cancelled altogether, so ended up buying almost every card.

Oops. I explained the rules again and we played again. This time Nadine eked out a victory over me by a few points.

Clans

Brendan 50, Binyamin 46, Itamar 38, Nadine 34

Binyamin loves to play new game after new game. At 11:00 pm I decided that I had enough of new games for now, so the four of them went and learned this. Nadine said that she liked it a lot. Actually, I rarely hear her say how much she liked a new game, so I will have to check it out.

Nadine writes:

Clans is a very good game, but spatial which I’m not good at. Anyway, you feel like you have control if you think enough, as opposed to Maharaja. You also feel like you have control in Power Grid, you’re making decisions which have a direct effect. In Maharaja, you don’t really know what effect your action selection decisions will have; the other games are better because it’s more fun to make decisions that will be carried out rather than gambling each round.

It’s nice to have so many new games to try out – even Maharaja…..

Settlers of Catan

Jon+, Gili, Michal

I proposed this as a simple and quick game to clear out my head. Gili still likes to play it, and Michal never had, which clinched the deal.

The board was pretty bad, with little ore (10,12,2) and bricks on (6,6,8). Michal and I started off on the ore 10, but her second settlement wasn’t as good as mine, owing to the different mix of resources we needed.

Gili took Longest Road and reached five settlements soon enough, but had no ore. I got a few 10’s rolled, so I built cities quickly, working to my usual “four cities and two other points” strategy. I had three cities when I started buying devel cards, but only got one soldier, a road building, a year of plenty and a vp. Not a good mix. However, the last rolls gave me four bricks and four woods, so I built six roads and swiped Longest Road to win. Michal said that she liked the game. I’m surprised that she hasn’t played it more considering that she hangs out with Itamar and Binyamin.

Bohnanza

Brendan 13, Binyamin 13, Itamar 9

In a last gasp before the end of the night, these guys played Bohnanza. I had traded away my copy a long time ago (I consider it more of a kids game), but Binyamin had bought the German version. They were supposed to remove the Cocoa beans in three-player, but couldn’t find them with the German words, until it transpired that the Cocoa beans were from an expansion that wasn’t included.

Otherwise, I didn’t follow the game.


Jan 25, 2006

Participants: Jon, Brendan, Elijah, Nadine, David K, Gili, Itamar

This evening we had a chance to look over some of our new game acquisitions. Turns out that Binyamin is ordering even more games: 13 more games from Germany, including Age of Steam, San Marco, and a slew of other games I am looking forward to playing more of.

We also held some group discussions and it turns out that a whole group of people want to play RPGs, having never played them, including D&D; I won’t play 3e, but I am willing to make something. Others have never played Magic, and want to learn that. I don’t know how we will be able to accomodate all that and not scare away the board gamers, but we’ll give it a try.

Maneater

Brendan (shark) 6, David 3, Nadine 3, Jon 0, Elijah 0

While waiting for numbers 6 and 7 we tried another game brought by Brendan. In this game, one player plays the shark and the other the four swimmers who have to reach shore. Played on a hexagonal board with impassable reefs and safe bouys, each round consists of the shark player secretly writing to which hex he intends to travel (up to four spaces), followed by the players moving up to two spaces each. If the shark ends up next to a player, the player loses a leg: three losses and you’re out. If the shark lands on the player, the player is out immediately.

A few other fancy spaces allow you to roll dice for special events, like tides or scrape your leg, but that’s about it. It is kind of a problematic game, because the shark goes after one person, leaving the other three basically safe to swim to shore, unless one of them has bad luck, which one did. So two of the players got to shore without having done anything. I was attacked and found it fun to try to second guess Brendan as to where he thought I was going, but one mistake and you’re toast. Elijah had bad luck and got a leg cut off, which ended his game, after the other two were already on shore.

Eh. Not as good as Billabong.

Louis XIV

David 56, Binyamin 41, Elijah 40

We had too many to play Power Grid for six, so three had to play something else. This was Binyamin’s first game, and Elijah’s second or third. Elijah had some good luck with the missions, but not enough.

Power Grid

Nadine 17, Jon 16, Gili 15, Brendan 14

This game turned out quite good. For a while it looked like Nadine was really going to take it, but we all managed to catch up pretty close by the penultimate round, with me looking like a favorite. Naturally I was in first, so I lost out to all the city buiding spots I needed. I lost for want of $2 when the last power plant I wanted was bid up just a smidge too high for me to afford along with everything I needed to power it as well as my last cities.

I started with the 4 plant, for which I payed 8. Gili took 5, Nadine 7, and Brendan 8. Bredan and Nadine ended up tossing 3 plants during the game while Gili and I tossed only 2, which shows you how that doesn’t seem to matter much. Brendan had pretty much the only Garbage facility going. The nukes didn’t show up until very late, and I was running either clean or efficient for a long time. I kept my original 4 plant until the penultimate round (which was cutting it close, since Nadine almost ended the game on me, but didn’t have enough money to buy her last buildings).

Nadine brought stage 2 in while we all had only 5 cities; Until the final round, she always had many more cities than the capacity to supply them. She finally upped to exactly 17 capacity in the last round. Brendan also had that capacity, but not enough cities. I also did, but was one shy of the money to buy my 17th city.

It is a long game; we took 3.5 hours, which is not much longer that other games we play, but still. We all had a lot of calculating to do; Nadine seemed to like the game despite that.

Torres

Itamar 215, David 208, Binyamin

David taught B and I how to play on his new American version of the game. The English cards don’t have any text on them at all. Binyamin didn’t seem to like it too much (but this may be because he didn’t fare so well in the scoring).

Puerto Rico

Jon 73, Nadine 59

We played a 2 player game with the usual expansion buildings. Nadine had never played 2 player, much to my surprise. I kept notes about all the actions, but I’m not sure they are that important. Generally speaking, I opened with Settler/corn, which I think may be stronger than quarry in my version of the 2-player game. Bear in mind that the corn player has already been crippled by not having Small Market in the game and by the addition of Small Fashion District (trade indigo at +2, a 2 cost building). I ended up with corn, indigo, and coffee (monopoly) and a very early Factory, followed by Large Business, Wharf, and then 2 big buildings. I held my own as far as shipping points goes.

Nadine had sugar, but otherwise took a number of early captains. This gave her an early vp lead, but she fell behind in buying power. She eventually got Tobacco, Discretionary Hold, and 2 big buildings.


Jan 18, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Josh, Binyamin, Gili, Zeke, Elijah, Itamar, Michal

Back to feast. A nice crowd of players this evening. Not anything like the thirty or so that you get on a typical Dallas evening; maybe someday. It is a joy to see happy people playing games, talking, sharing an experience.

I think we are perhaps too friendly, sometimes. Everyone giving so much advice makes for a feel-good experience, but it does have its downsides: people take long turns; everyone’s play styles become predictable and similar; and the games become luckier, because everyone makes moves out of nearly perfect information.

Anyway, welcome back Elijah who was gone for several months while he was involved in a play (Tom Sawyer musical). I saw it, since Elijah kindly provided me with a complimentary pair of tickets. He was great; every time I saw him on stage, he gave a great flourish or grin and I had to end up smiling.

Welcome also to Michal, sister of Itamar. For some reason, Michal’s English is much better than Itamar’s, or (more likely) Itamar takes pains to hide his English prowess behind a thicker accent.

Binyamin brought a few games over, some of which we played this evening. He is a real enthusiast, and is working on acquiring a lot of games right now, as well as trying to start a number of game projects in his community and in Jerusalem.

Aside from the games below, I briefly started explaining Magic: the Gathering to Nadine before other people came. Apparently, a number of people are interested in learning how to play, so we will schedule that in sometime. We also briefly started explaining Ra with the intention of playing it as a quick filler, but the other game we were waiting for finished earlier than expected, so we quit in favor of a more substantial game.

Ingenious

Josh 14, Jon 11, Binyamin 9, Nadine 7

Michal 11, Itamar 10

I was happy and surprised when I saw this new game from Reiner Knizia already translated and showing up in stores in Israel. A new game, and a supposedly good one at that, already on Israel’s shelves, and in the normal toy stores, to boot. If you want to buy it here, it is called Hiburim and it is a reasonable price of 165 NIS which is about $35.

Binyamin brought it over and it is every bit as good as Blokus, another recent tile-laying game. There are many differences, of course. We are talking Knizia, here. That means that everyone is playing is all the colors at once and your score is your progress in your lowest color. For convenience, each color is also associated with a unique shape.

Each player has a hand of six domino-like tiles. Each tile is built from two attached hexagons, and each hexagon has one of the six colors on it. Unlike dominoes, however, you can place the tile anywhere you want on the hexagonal grid board. Each time you play, you score as follows: for each side of the piece played, count the number of other tiles with the same color in an uninterrupted straight line radiating out from that side of the tile. The lines radiate in five directions from the hexagonal side of your piece, not counting the side attached to the other half of your tile. Score that many points in that color.

A simple illustration clarifies this easily, of course.

There are two special rules: If you find yourself with no tiles of the color as your least color, you may exchange all of your tiles and draw back up to six, instead of just drawing back up to six as usual. And if you reach 18 in a color, then anytime you play a tile which scores points in that color, you don’t get the points in that color (18 is the max) but instead you get to place an additional tile. You can play all six tiles in one round this way, if you are so lucky.

That last one is incredibly important, and it is worth you while to get to 18 as soon as possible in at least one color. Odds being what they are, you then will likely always be able to play at least three tiles a round instead of just one.

Update: I took a gander at BGG and it looks like we played with a major rule wrong. The rules seem to indicate that you get the bonus tile only once when reaching 18, and not endlessly each time you play more points in the color. I think this makes more sense. I will have to verify.

The game ends when there is no legal space left to play, or someone gets to 18 in all of his or her colors.

The obvious question is: how much is luck, and how much is tactics (there is no strategy here, other than “get to 18 in a color as soon as possible”)? And the answer is: I can’t tell from one play, but I think there may be a lot less luck than appears. For one thing, because you can play wherever you want, you can carefully play to block lines of color that you no longer need but others do. Also, having a hand of 6 tiles is a great mitigation; it would be much different if you just picked a tile from the pool each round.

However, as usual in games like this, with equally matched players, the luck becomes more pronounced rather than less pronounced as the game continues and you are waiting for that specific piece or handful of pieces. The first one to draw it then gains a huge advantage. Also, the one to control the final positions on the board also has a huge advantage, and it is not clear to me how much control one has over this. Obviously more in two-player than in four-player.

Update: I took a gander at BGG and discovered that it is common for new players to play “nice”, resulting in high scores. Once we start playing more cutthroat, blocking lines of tiles and so on, it should become more tense. I’m trying to figure out how you can block others effectively (as opposed to just generally) without having to sacrifice your point scoring in the process.

Anyway, I certainly enjoyed my first playing and look forward to playing again. In our game, I was first to get to 18 in a color, quickly followed by Josh. Even though we were both now playing three tiles per round compared to one by the other players, we technically weren’t winning yet, because our lowest colors were still on par with them. Therefore, the person who would play the last tile would decide who won and that was Josh. Who won.

Later in the evening, Itamar and Michal showed up and they played this 2-player while waiting for another game to open up. I believe they enjoyed it.

Yinsh

Zeke+, Elijah

Zeke and Elijah appeared while we were playing Ingenious. Zeke may have played Yinsh once but didn’t remember the rules, and Elijah hadn’t played any new games. I think they both enjoyed it. I had been waiting to see Zeke and Elijah play (being our two youngest members), but I didn’t hear anything about their experience other than normal game sounds.

Cribbage

Jon, Gili

Gili came in the middle of both of these games, so I split my attention between Ingenious and a game of Cribbage with her (and the telephone and ordering food for them and answering the door and so on). We didn’t finish the game, but she was ahead by a reasonable margin when we stopped.

San Juan

Gili 37, Elijah 33, Zeke 20

Instead, after the Yinsh game was over, but the Ingenious game was still going on, Gili joined these two for a San Juan game. I didn’t catch any notes from the game other than the scores. They ended at about the time we finished Ingenious.

Cities & Knights of Catan

Jon 13, Gili 12, Zeke 7

The usual shuffling around of game requests and dequests (a new word). Binyamin is always keen on trying new games, especially the ones he brought. And Entdecker is one that I, and others, were interested in trying at least once, being a Teuber game, after all. However, not all of us could play, so us leftovers played Cities and Knights as my suggestion for a 3-player game.

I thought I was going pretty well this game, with some nice early positions and a turn 4 aqueduct. I built an early city just to lose it when I didn’t have a knight. Gili kept pace with me regarding victory points throughout the game, and was even slightly ahead all the way to 11 points. However, her points were ephemeral, and included Longest Road and the Merchant. Mine were all solid cities, settlements, and a metropolis on the last level. She also gained aqueduct by turn 7 or 8.

I also had some nice early green cards, such as both Alchemists, as well as the guy who switches numbers (great with an aqueduct).

Eventually both Gili and Zeke each also gained a metropolis. On the last round of the game, Zeke stole Gili’s Longest Road, and then I immediately stole it myself to win the game.

The dice rolls were strangely flat, instead of bell-curve. 2 rolled once, 11 twice, and 12 not at all, but the rest all rolled 4 or 5 times each, except 4, 7, and 9 each of which rolled 6 times.

Entdecker

Nadine 66, Binyamin 63, Josh 59

It certainly looked like a big version of Oceania from where I was sitting, although I’m sure that most people would say that Oceania is just a little version of Entdecker. Nadine said that she rather liked it and she built a lot of little islands. Binyamin thought it was a nice game. All of them said that there were some rules issues; some of which took them most of the game to figure out, and some of which they still don’t know, such as whether you can block islands and how the islands get filled in, exactly.

Josh raised the issue of the ending points being too much of a swing. Apparently you reveal some tiles which are worth either 5, 10, or 15 points, and that’s what you score. I hadn’t even played the game, but I suggested that they try playing with these point stacks face up, so that you know what the next one will be worth. Then you can decide how much effort to expend going for them. They liked this idea. However, they then said that maybe it is not as lucky as they said, since apparently some of the people know how much the tiles are worth and the fact that they expend effort in going for them should clue in the other people. Or something like that.

Attika

Itamar+, Michal, Jon, Gili

Entdecker was still going on, C&K was finished, and so was Ingenious. I decided to give Attika a go again, even though I really didn’t like it the last time I played it two-player. When I played it, it just seemed totally brainless. Trivial to stop people from connecting temples, trivial to drop buildings on the board, and no interesting choices.

I’m glad I gave it another try 4-player, as this game, while not exactly thrilling, was ok. The other three certainly liked it. I was amazed to see both Michal and Itamar in hot contention to connect temples. Gili blocked Michal, but there was not much we could do to stop Itamar – well, actually we probably could have done better to stop him, but we weren’t doing it very efficiently.

A well-deserved victory.

Modern Art

Josh 405, Itamar 392, Binyamin 382, Nadine/Michal 340, Jon 320

I was ready to call it quits, but everyone else was up for another game. I thought Modern Art could accommodate six of us and be quick, but it turned out to be only for five players (even though my copy has six player screens) and to take an hour and a half. Nadine joined up with Michal.

This was another game where everyone played everyone else’s turn: “Ok now you should play this artist with this type of auction and now you should bid this amount” and so on. Argh. Please let’s not do that.

Modern Art is a very neat and elegant auction game. I think it is more fun than Ra or Traumfabrik. However, the double auction cards are really a problem. They are vastly superior to the other cards. If you don’t have any, you will lose. I didn’t have any.

In a five player game, deciding what to bid is entirely dependent on who is auctioning the item. If it is your RHO, it is more valuable to you, because you can then play another by the same artist. If it is your LHO, it is not so valuable, because the other three players are going to play other artists if you win it (and probably doubles), making your purchase lose value.

As I said, I fared rather poorly. Itamar seemed to spend entirely too much on paintings but did very well anyway as people spent just as much buying them from him when he auctioned. Nevertheless, Josh’s victory took everyone by surprise, including Josh.

And that was that.


Jan 11, 2006

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Josh, Batya, Rachel A

A slow night. Nadine showed up at 6:30, and Josh and Batya came at about 7:00. J & B could only stay for two hours. It must be off week for everyone else.

Yinsh

Jon+, Nadine

Nadine requested to play this, but then she complained that trying to figure out the right moves was making her head hurt. She seemed pretty tired, actually. She started the game with most of her pieces in the corners while mine were all two spaces away from each other in the middle. I started weaving patterns while her pieces jumped to the center to disrupt them. I was able to stave her off enough to form a five in a row. One down.

Nadine then gained a four in a row with her ring poised on one end to make the fifth. I jumped her piece at the other end, and she moved her ring one space down recreating four again. I crossed again the other direction, and she did it again. We worked our way down until she hit the end of the board, both of us having 4 in a row on that line.

Eventually, owing to her ring now being left hanging at the end of the board, I had enough free play to form a second five in a row. Two down.

At this point, Nadine decided her head hurt too much to finish the game, so she formed a five in a row at the expense of letting me get my third one just so the game would finish. Oof.

Anagrams

Jon+, Nadine

Nadine said that she likes Scrabble, so we tried this quicker version. Unfortunately, once again it was not her type of game, since it is a quick shout out pattern matching game with a whole lot of variables. We quit when Josh and Batya arrived.

Tigris and Euphrates

Josh 5/5/7/7, Nadine 4/4/5/5, Batya 2/3/3/6, Jon 1/2/3/3

I was given leeway to pick a four player game that was strategic and fairly abstract. We don’t get to play this much, so I hoped it would go over well with Batya, who had never played before.

This time I found myself on the losing end of a game that I had selected. And when I say losing, I mean losing. I had a grand total of two red cubes and one blue cube for a good portion of the game, and the blue cube was only gained when another player placed a tile in a kingdom that held my blue leader. My single point at the end was gained in the last round.

Everyone else started with a King/red tile except for me. I started by placing my red and green leaders into two kingdoms that already had two available double red spaces. I was feeling pretty clever about myself, but it turned out that I placed the wrong leaders in the wrong kingdoms. Josh had occupied the central space, while Nadine had started with the upper right and Batya on the upper left. My green went into Nadine’s starting position and my red into Josh’s.

Another problem was that I didn’t have the right tiles to make any other color points, so I needed to start some internal conflicts to place my leaders into useful positions. I should never do that with only a three tile advantage; I always lose. The two times that I didn’t lose – once by succeeding in the conflict, and once by dropping a disaster tile – I lost what I gained the very next turn through return conflicts.

Most of this nonsense was happening between Josh and myself, with Josh ending up the victor and raking in points as a result. In the meantime, Batya and Nadine were happily raking in their own points and spreading towards the center. Eventually the major conflict happened, which knocked my remaining leaders off the board and in which Josh ultimately triumphed.

The game ended with the last treasure being taken relatively quickly by Nadine.

Puerto Rico

Rachel 55, Jon 46, Nadine 41

Since Josh and Batya had to go, Nadine was also going to go unless Rachel wanted to play PR, which she did. I ended up the corn player with high hopes of winning.

Our changes:

  • Assembly Line (all prod buildings have extra circle) instead of Small Market.
  • Small Fashion District (trade indigo at +2) instead of Construction Hut.
  • You can move a colonist onto Hospice when you buy it.
  • Trading Post instead of Office.
  • Discretionary Hold (store up to three barrels, and ship one barrel onto any full ship) instead of Large Warehouse.
  • Large General Workhouse (2 circles, acts as wild production building) instead of University.
  • Large Business (-1 building cost, +1 VP on first shipment) instead of Harbor.
  • Cathedral (+1 VP/3 VP in red building points) instead of Guild Hall.
  • Fairgrounds (+3/5/7 VP for 4/5/6 different plantation types) instead of Residence.
Round Player Role Notes
1 Rachel Settler R:quarry, N:coffee, J:coffee. Lots of coffees out.
Nadine Builder N:Sm indigo, J:Assembly Line, R:Sm Indigo. Lack of Sm Market and presence of Sm Fasion District really slows down the third player.
Jon Mayor
2 Nadine Trader+
Jon Craftsman+
Rachel Captain+
3 Jon Mayor+ I don’t have anything I want to buy, so I decide to try pushing the other players into thinking they have a colonist shortage.
Rachel Builder+ R:Hospice, N:pass, J:Sm Sugar. R moves a colonist onto Hospice.
Nadine Settler+ N:corn, J:sugar, R:tobacco. Nadine is forced to choose between quarry, corn, and denying me my sugar. I end up with a sugar monopoly for much of the game, and Rachel ends up with a tobacco monopoly for much of the game.
4 Rachel Mayor R is feeling the lack of colonists.
Nadine Craftsman+ N misses that I’m producing sugar.
Jon Trader+
5 Nadine Captain++ But she gets some VPs out of it.
Jon Builder+ J:Coffee, R:Sm Fashion District, N:Coffee.
Rachel Settler+ R:quarry, N:coffee, J:tobacco. I figure I might try to bust R’s tobacco monopoly at some point.
6 Jon Mayor+ My spaces are more important than theri spaces. Still, taking Mayor a lot is not typically the way to win.
Rachel Builder R:Tobacco, N:Assembly Line, J:pass. Neither of us use the Assembly Line, since it is not always easy to use.
Nadine Craftsman+ Hoping R will trade, allowing N to trade her coffee.
7 Rachel Captain++ But she doesn’t. I force a coffee boat.
Nadine Settler+ N:corn, J:coffee, R:tobacco. N is building up her corn. R has two quarries. I am straddling the middle.
Jon Trader++ No trade.
8 Nadine Mayor+
Jon Builder+ J:Lg Market, R:pass, N:Sm Warehouse. Arguably, I should have bought Discretionary Hold, but I wanted to solidify my cash. I could also have bought Tobacco.
Rachel Craftsman+ Let’s me trade.
9 Jon Trader+ I trade coffee, R trades tobacco.
Rachel Captain+
Nadine Settler+ N:quarry, J:corn, R:corn.
10 Rachel Builder+ R:Lg Business, N:pass, J:Discretionary Hold. DH is a nice building, more versatile than Wharf, if not as raw at pumping out VPs. But it’s cheaper.
Nadine Mayor+
Jon Trader I trade sugar for 5.
11 Nadine Settler+ N:corn, J:sugar, R:sugar.
Jon Mayor
Rachel Craftsman++ Into my trade again.
12 Jon Captain++ But I don’t really need the money as much as locking up a sugar boat.
Rachel Builder+ R:Fairgrounds, N:pass, J:Tobacco. R has made a tobacco boat.
Nadine Trader+ N trades her coffee.
13 Rachel Builder R:Lg Sugar, N:Trading Post, J:pass. R will try to finish the game with building. It’s a little late for N’s trading post, but she gets to use it at least once.
Nadine Mayor+
Jon Trader I trade coffee for 7.
14 Nadine Craftsman++ N is producing lots of corn, but the boats are locked against her.
Jon Builder J:Cathedral, R:Lg Indigo, N:pass.
Rachel Settler++ R:quarry, N:corn, J:coffee.
15 Jon Trader+
Rachel Captain++ The boats empty now, unblocking for Nadine to ship next time.
Nadine Builder N:Customs House, J:City Hall, R:Fortress.
16 Rachel Mayor++ For Fortress.
Nadine Captain N ships buckets of corn.
Jon Settler+ Nothing else is appealing.
17 Nadine Captain+ N and R ship a corn.
Jon Craftsman++ I forget that R can end the game, but I probably didn’t have anything else to do anyway, and it gives me more goods and cash.
Rachel Builder+ R:Coffee, N:Lg Indigo, J:Sm Fashion District.

Scores:

Jon: ship 12 + build 21 + bonus 13 = 46
Rachel: ship 17 + build 25 + bonus 13 = 55
Nadine: ship 22 + build 14 + bonus 5 = 41

Hope to see more of you next week.


Jan 04, 2006

Participants: Jon, David K, Nadine, Binyamin, Gili, Josh, Elan, Itamar, Shlomo

David K returns after his first daughter’s wedding. Shlomo drops in while on one of his occasional trips to Israel.

One of the biggest issues on game night is coordinating game start and end times that can accomodate players arriving late and leaving early. The best arrangement has all players finishing games at the same time so that the next set of games can mix up the play groups.

The biggest issue is finding games that everyone is willing to play, which is easiest when you can mix up the play groups, which we managed to do this evening. It worked for the first transition, from filler games to first games. It should have worked from first games to second games, too, since both main groups finished about the same time. Unfortunately, it was too late for some of the players to start a new game so they just left. A shame, as it would have been nice for all of us to get in two main games.

San Juan

David 29+2, Binyamin 29+1, Nadine 21

I was still eating when they arrived, so I handed them this game as a filler. David won on the tie, as you can see. Binyamin was hoping that the tie would be decided based on goods on production buildings, which would have given him the victory.

Lord of the Rings: the Confrontation

Jon+, Gili

I took white again, as I had the vast experience of two games under my belt and Gili had none. White is certainly difficult and demoralizing to play, since the bulk of your activity is to wait for your opponent to bring his forces out of Mordor, evade whenever possible, and when not, sacrifice. Everyone mentioned how the game incredibly gives you a feel for the story with barely any components, and now I see why.

I finally figured out how to play Pippin, although it didn’t work out well for me this time. I couldn’t understand how retreating did any good if the bad guy could just move forward and attack you anyway. Now I relize that you have to retreat into a space shared with one of your compatriots so that they will have to battle both. Of course. As an aside, it seems like you should be able to double team against an opponent if you are both in the same space, rather than fighting one at a time.

On Spielfrieks I called this a really short wargame and I stick to that assessment. Piece to piece confrontation and elimination, area control, comparison mechanics, direct movement, terrain negotiation, troop movement. That’s a wargame as far as I am concerned.

The first attack of the game was my Pippin attacking a Warg. Pippin retreated into a space with Gandalf, and then the Warg attacked and Gandalf fell. That was quick. The rest of the White pieces fell one by one, taking a few black ones with them, most notably the Nazgul and the Riders.

We made it all the way through the cards until only Frodo remained, which is when I got the cards back. A lot of evasive action later and I found myself with a clear path to Mordor. None of Gili’s pieces could attack me from where they were, and they were still too far from the Shire. So I slipped in for a surprise victory for the white forces.

My opinion of the game went up a notch.

Primordial Soup

Josh 47, Gili 37, Elan/Itamar 35

Elan couldn’t stay past 10, but Itamar showed up at about 9:30 and took over for him about three quarters of the way through the game. None of them had played before, although Josh had almost played, once. I’m sure they got a few genes wrong, but they all enjoyed it. Of note, Gili bought Speed early in the game and didn’t manage to roll a single success from it the entire game.

Princes of Florence

Binyamin 69, David 62, Jon 62, Nadine 51

We haven’t played this for a while. Our first choice was whether to play with the “last profession remains unbought but is flipped over and may be recruited” rule with which we play five player (essential). In four player it doesn’t seem to be quite as necessary, since, between the extra professions you can buy and the Recruiting cards, buying a profession every chance you get is not such a no-brainer. And, even though we played with this rule, the professions weren’t bought out immediately.

Still, David collected lots of professions and recruiters. I found the game just as hard as the five player version. Even though “better” stuff was more generally available during the auction, I always wanted more things. I couldn’t even see how I was going to do any of it, until I acquired a late game Jester. Meanwhile, Binyamin on his very first time playing had already figured out what he was going to to by turn three or four, did it, and won. Nadine ended up with the most builders, but somehow didn’t build that many buildings. She did steal the forest that I needed on the last round, costing me 4 or 5 points.

Player Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5 Round 6 Round 7 Final
David Recruiter: 400
Religion
Profession
Recruiter: 500
Profession
Bell Maker: 10/0
+3
Jester: 1000
Opinion
Bonus
Jester: 1000
Cartographer: 14/0
Laboratory
Lake: 200
Bonus
Mathematician: 17/8
Park: 200
Botanist: 21/10
Goldsmith: 17/7
+3
Jester: 500
?: 19/9
?: 33/16
+3
62
Nadine Builder: 700
Religion
Profession
Park: 200
Travel
Profession
Forest: 200
Bonus
Bonus
Builder: 400
University
Theologian: 15/2
Builder: 200
Hospital
Physician: 15/7
Jester: 600
Theater
Dramatist: 17/8
Forest: 300
?: 17/8
?: 19/9
51
Jon Forest: 200
Opinion
Profession
Jester: 1100
Library
Bonus
Recruiter: 400
Jurist: 17/0
Profession
+3
Prestige: 200
Bonus
Organ Maker: 18/5
+3
Jester: 600
Hospital
Physician: 17/6
Forest: 200
Opera
Philosopher: 16/8
Lake: 200
Pharmacist: 17/8
Composer: 26/13
59+3=62
Binyamin Jester: 1100
Travel
Poet: 8/0
+3
Forest: 300
Profession
Religion
Builder: 400
Profession
Tower


Profession cards gone. Goldsmith flipped up.

Lake: 200
Workshop
Astromoner: 17/0
Recruiter: 300
Studio
Bell Maker: 18/9
+3
Prestige: 600
Opera
Watch Maker: ?/?
Prestige: 600
Choreographer: 18/9
Painter: 18/9
54+15=69

Taj Mahal

Shlomo 51, Itamar 40, Jon 38, Binyamin 30

First game for Shlomo and Itamar, second game for Binyamin. Shlomo started out quite slowly and then rocketed ahead with good connections. I concentrated on commodities, but, as usual, when someone else is fighting with you for them tooth and nail it loses its luster as a strategy. Even though Itamar had a reasonable collection which was second to mine, Binyamin was the one who fought with me for them, sinking up both to last place. He got the worst of it since I was better prepared for the battles, but I had to struggle to keep pace with Itamar from then on. Meanwhile, Shlomo toasted me in rounds nine and ten and that was basically game.

A fiercely fought battle and a win for Shlomo.

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