May 06, 2009

Participants: Jon, Gadi, Hershel, Max, Nadine, Abraham, Gili, Claude

Gadi is the guy who organized the Board Game Studies Colloquium in Israel a few weeks ago. He came to return my games that I had left for the colloquium members to play, to learn how to play Ark of the Covenant, which someone had left him, and to learn a little more about the game group. He is starting a Board Game Studies department within the folklore department of Hebrew U. He dropped by early, around 5:30.

Claude is someone who spoke at the conference about four pretty wooden games that he developed – all abstract or word tiles – and which he is now trying to get manufactured. Turns out that he is also a friend of Gili’s. This was his first time enjoying games longer than a half an hour.

Ark of the Covenant

Jon+, Gadi

I’d never played this version of Carcassonne, but it took me only a few moments to learn the rules. It’s closer to Hunters and Gatherers than it is to regular Carc. The main changes are a) and ark piece you can move around when you have nothing better to do, and each time it passes a meeple that meeple gains a point; b) single-tile cloisters (or keeps or something) where the person with the most people on or adjacent to it when it is surrounded by tiles on all four sides gains 7 points; c) a double-scoring meeple that you can use once in a city; and d) unfinished items score at the end of the game: full points for roads, half points for cities and cloisters.

On a few of the tiles it was unclear when a road ended or continued, and whether a road that was broken in two by rubble meant that the two sides of the road should be considered a single field or two distinct fields.

I had no problem playing, having played versions of Carcassonne many times. Gadi played around half a game and didn’t quite figure out the strategy in that time. We stopped when many more people arrived.

Jon, Abraham

I enjoy Carcassonne but rarely get to play it with my group, but Abraham was willing to try this version. He had played other versions before. When scoring the end of the game, we removed meeples too quickly, and thus are not sure whether Abraham had control of a certain field or we both shared it. So I can’t tell you who won.

Dvonn

Hershel+, Dvonn

First play for both. I figured that the best first introduction for Claude would be an abstract. Nadine had borrowed Yinsh, so I gave them this. I think they both liked it, although it will of course take several more games to get a good feel for any sort of strategy.

I saw the last few moves, and on the last move Hershel could have won with a complete victory (total elimination), but he missed it. Instead he won something like 20+ to 3.

Claude

Hershel+, Claude

Yes, Claude named (temporarily) one of his games Claude. It’s a pretty wooden game based on Crossword Squares, but each player places three dead spaces before the game starts, there is a limited supply of letter tiles, and you score only if an entire line (wall to dead space, or wall to wall) is a word, 1 point per word length.

I enjoy Crossword Squares, so I enjoy this game, and the components are really nice. of course, it helps if you are fluid in English, which is not the case for Claude.

Gili, Gadi

Or Gadi.

It’s Alive

Nadine 50, Max 40, Gili 37, Gadi 33

This is a great gateway game. First play for Gadi, and probably not too many more for Max. I didn’t see the game progression. Gadi complimented me on it, afterward.

El Grande

Max 117, Nadine 111, Abraham 102, Hershel 101

It took a while to decide what to play next with newbies in the group, but a few jumped when I mentioned El Grande. Nadine usually wins, but she claims not so in four player games; she nearly won anyway, and anyway I don’t believe her. First play for Hershel and Abraham, I believe. Only second or third for Max.

Max was slightly ahead after the first third, 35 to Nadine’s 34. By the second third, he was way ahead, 93 to 77. This gap closed considerably at the end, as you can see. But the order didn’t change throughout the game.

Settlers of Catan

Jon 10, Gadi 9, Gili 6, Claude 4

While they El Grande’d, I broke out the big guns for Gadi and Claude. Claude had some trepidations about a game that took longer than half an hour, but we assured him that that was because he wasn’t playing the right games, aka games that are actually fun to play the whole way through.

Gili gave a lightning explanation all in Hebrew; apparently she’s done this for SoC many, many times.

Both Claude and Gadi were suitably impressed by the game; for the first time this evening, Gadi actually came close to winning. On the last round he stole Longest Road from Claude and could have won if his development card was a VP, but it was only a soldier. Claude actually traded him the card he needed to steal Longest Road, much to his chagrin. I was guaranteed the win when Gadi finished, turning up a soldier to claim Longest Army.

It was a crowded board, as it normally is with four players. As first player, I placed my second settlement in the second best remaining spot instead of the best one – the best one would have nearly entirely choked Claude off right from the start of the game, and I didn’t want his first game experience to be entirely frustrating. I think I make the right choice.

I ended up forgoing Ore because of that, but I was able to trade for it when I needed it. Wheat was in short supply in the early game, but eventually I built cities and more settlements on the wheat hexes and pulled in 5 at a time. The robber also played a part – I blocked off Gadi’s 6 Ore hex several times, while the 8 didn’t roll when it was on my 8 Brick hex. So yeah, there was some luck.

Magic: the Gathering

Gili+, Jon

First play for Gili. I taught her how to play in about five minutes, and then I pulled a random bunch of cards from my commons collection; lots and lots of junk. I had to toss half of them just to get anything resembling playable cards. Then I tossed 15 lands and 25 cards to Gili (blue and green), took the same for me (red and white), and we played.

We both had to struggle to come up with anything good to play, but eventually Gili got out a Craw Worm and an Illusionary Forces. I tried to Fissure the Worm, but Gili could Power Sink me for more than I could pay. I sacrificed a lot of little guys for a while, but eventually succumbed.

I gave Gili the cards to take home. I think I need some more lands. If anyone has MtG lands lying around, I could use some extras (especially swamps).

Fairy Tale

Abraham 45, Max 39, Nadine 37, Hershel 34

First play for Max, and possibly Hershel as well. Yeah, the game is pretty random in the end, but it’s still a quick and decent filler.

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