February 21, 2007

Participants: Jon, Nadine, Elijah, Josh (*), Adam, Gili, Zack, Binyamin, Dylan, Genia, David K, David E

Nadine opened up game night, as I arrived late again. A new player, Josh, joined us for his first visit. Josh has been playing games in Jerusalem for quite some time, but only managed to make his first visit tonight. Dylan and Ganya also made a return after some absence. David E is one of my friends from Beit Shemesh, who happened to be around this evening and joined us for some Bridge.

I didn’t take any notes, and not only forgot the details, but even the games we played. As usual, there were the various false starts as people jockeyed for the games they wanted.

I’ll fill in what I remember, and others will fill in what they remember later.

Chrononauts

A commenter helped me find the name of this game. It might have been one of the expansions.

Nadine adds:

We played history fluxx or whatever it’s called, the historical assumptions
are interesting but the play was confusing.

Power Grid

David K, Nadine, Zack, Elijah

Nadine adds:

David won. He did a good job and was ahead throughout. He had a capacity of 17 most of the game, while Zach and I were stuck at 16; we had both passed on the last 6 plant that David got. When we finally reached Step 3, I was second to bid, but there were no 6 or 7 plants so I passed. Zach was last, and one of the few 6 plants came up, letting him power 17. So he tied with David, who won it on money. Which is excellent for Zach’s first play of this game. There was not a lot of competitive bidding for plants, many good ones were taken at cost by the last person. Elijah had a lot of free power and tons of money, but not enough capacity.

Zertz

Jon, Binyamin

This was my fourth game of Zertz, and it was the first game I played with any real seriousness. Binyamin and I thought things through in various directions, and made various exchanges. Each turn was carefully considered.

As the game rolled to a close, Binyamin needed either a white or gray stone to win, while I needed either a gray or black stone. And then we hit a situation not described in the rules.

This was surprising, since Kris writes his rules very well, and his games are designed with elegance. He even adds rules for special infrequent situations that may come up. Unfortunately, he missed this one.

In our game, Binyamin was able to place a stone but not remove a disk; all the disks were interior to the board. So, the balls were not isolated, but he was also unable to complete his turn. We didn’t know if that meant that he should remove a disk, even though he couldn’t slide it out, or if he didn’t remove a disk at all. Of course, one way I would win, and the other way he would win.

The game was still an excellent game, aside from this quirk.

Update: Ah ha. I thought Kris wouldn’t have overlooked this. From the rules:

However, it may occur that you cannot remove any of the vacant rings without disturbing the position of the other rings. In this case you must not remove a ring (i.e. your move ends after having placed a marble).

Thanks, Kris.

Cosmic Encounter

Dylan adds:

Josh – Warpish/Macron; Dylan – Vampire/Bully,Gambler; Genia – Vacuum/Clone; Adam – Vulch/Wrack +?

Adam sort of won. I got a very near first turn win by playing a demon flare to force Adam to cede me two bases, plus one I gained from allying with Josh on the first turn, and one I gained in my first challenge. I lost the second challenge by a near margin, and it all went downhill from there.

It was a rather weird power game, with most of us forgetting or being unable to use their powers – I forgot about Vampire and Bully (I used a Pentaform flare to swap them); Genia never got a high card to clone; Adam forgot or chose not to use Wrack and very few edicts were played for Vulch; and Josh’s Macron powers paled in comparison to his Warpish. We went several rounds without any Warp Breaks or Mobius Tubes, and Warpish reached something like +40 to his strength before Adam finally got a Mobius Tubes.

Other strange things happened – I drew tons of cards because all I kept drawing were flares instead of attack cards, though I did get both the 30 and the 40. Josh barely got any cards, because nobody would attack him with his Warpish bonuses.

In the end, Adam sort of won – in that, he used a flare to win his last challenge, which Genia canceled. But we thought Genia’s card only worked on edicts, so it passed and he won. Only after we started picking up did I read Genia’s card and noticed that it said edicts or flares.

I think the game would have played very differently if everyone had been paying more attention (like forgetting about power usage, as noted above). A lot of fun, regardless.

Stephenson’s Rocket

Jon 89, Gili 81, Binyamin 78

I like train games, so I thought this would be a no-brainer. Gili was also willing to give it a try.

Unfortunately, as the rules were explained, I began to get a sinking feeling. This was a Knizia game, through and through. It wasn’t about trains, it was about points and set-collection. As the rules explanation wore on, I began to think “Acquire” done by Knizia.

Now, Knizia is brilliant, of course, and makes great games, sometimes. But you have to be in the mind set for him.

Worse yet, as the game progressed, it began to look more like “Acquire done by Knizia, but not quite finished”. Leaving aside the mismatch between theme and mechanics, there were just a whole lot of mechanics which felt awkward. As usual, this may very well be because we played wrong or read the rules wrong.

One, moving the train and then putting the track behind it is annoying, especially when you have to pick up a station and place the track under it. That doesn’t feel right. Two, when tracks merge, there is no way to indicate this, and trying to visualize it is made difficult by the track patterns that don’t actually connect.

Three, the passenger mechanic, where you get a passenger if you connect to someone else’s station, didn’t feel right. Neither did the good chips, which were simply set-collection that perforce dominated the first part of the game.

Also, we kept bidding one share when someone else proposed to lay a track just to make them lose a share. It was so easy and cost essentially nothing.

Now, many of the above could simply be a result of first play inexperience. Maybe we just didn’t value things properly. But the entire experience, so thematically promising, turned out to be rather dull in the end. Move collect money, move collect money. Collect lots of money. Gili was bored to tears. I was rather unengaged, myself.

I will have to read the rules myself to see if we missed something.

In our game, I quickly realized that it was not worth fighting for things with other people because there were so many other ways to win points. As a result, Gili and Binyamin fought a smidge more than I did, and I walked away with a relatively easy victory.

Update: The only rules we appear to have gotten wrong is: Stations may not be placed on towns, cities, or tracks, nor adjacent to locomotives or existing stations.

Grave Robbers From Outer Space

Bridge

Jon, David E, Nadine, Binyamin

After Stephenson’s rocket, I went out for a few minutes and returned and sat down with a deck of cards. Others who were lightly playing a few other light card games that Josh had brought left and joined me for a few hands of Bridge.

David E and I have a special bidding system, which I essentially remember, but we didn’t get to use it much, as we only played two hands.

Nadine adds:

Jon and Binyamin made 4 Spades, bid 2
Jon and David made 4 Spades, bid 4
Nadine and Binyamin made 3 NT, bid 3

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