March 30, 2016

Participants: Jon, David, Binyamin, Gili, Nadine, Aaron, Haim, Francis, Eszter

Haim is a newcomer who lives nearby. He came to check us out and hopes to come again, maybe with his wife sometimes.

Magic: The Gathering

Jon+, David+

We drafted. R and W gave me 21 playable cards. I chose U flyers as a splash. My deck was all flyers or cards that make you fly, or direct damage, or completely prevent him from blocking for one turn. I thought it was pretty good, although it had no mana prisms and no extra card drawing, so I was likely to stall or crash with a mana problem. Meanwhile David played W for the first time in a long time, as well as G and U.

I had a mana problem in the first game (no Plains), and my other cards were the ones that prevented him from blocking. He flew over and pinged me, even though I took out two of his creatures with a Fireball. The second game I had no mana problem and everything flowed well. I stalled a little bit, but as long as he couldn’t touch me I could wait him out until I had enough firepower to overrun him in one turn, which I did.

High Society

Binyamin+, Jon, Gili-

First play for Binyamin and Gili. Binyamin was distracted during the game, and Gili had a hard time wrapping her head around the “least money loses” rule. Gili was too aggressive and she lost, I was too conservative and I had almost no points. So Binyamin won. I don’t think Gili liked it.

Libertalia

Jon 86, Gili 73, Francis 63, Binyamin 62, Eszter 52

This is a medium weight game, kind of a cross between the 3×6 card play of 7 Wonders crossed with the screw your neighbors feel of Citadels. I hated that aspect of Citadels but I enjoy 7 Wonders.

Each player starts each round with the same numbered cards. You blind bid one each round. Lower numbers play their card effects first (which can sometimes assassinate a higher valued card) and then the higher valued cards take first picks from available chips. When two players play the same valued card in a round, each card has an an initiative number; supposedly these initiative numbers are distributed evenly among the player colors, but they are fixed on each color’s cards. In practice, the highest valued card always nets around 5 points and the lowest around -3. But there were exceptions, and sometimes the bad chips can be turned to good.

This game has a lot going for it, and it mostly seems to work well. I started poorly and didn’t see how I could do better. Then I realized how even the “bad effects” of the chips can be either neutral or even good if you combine certain card effects and chips in certain ways, and that made it more enjoyable. Nevertheless, as the game went on, I also realized that I was frustrated at the near-complete chaos and lack of control.

I don’t believe that there is control in blind bidding and “bluffing” games, both of which are fancy ways of implementing “total luck unless your opponents are idiots”. In this game, your reward depends slightly on how well you play, but mostly on whether  your opponents play things that totally screw you. And if anyone managed to make progress, your opponents can gang up on you.

A more worrying problem is that the players have different fixed card values. These are supposed to be balanced, but I found that there are certain cards that are far more valuable to be played in the first or last rounds of each phase, and therefore more critical to have the “better initiative”, while other cards are equally valuable when played in any round, and therefore initiative on these cards is irrelevant. Unfortunately for me, the Yellow cards had the poor initiative on the cards that actually needed them, and good initiative on cards that didn’t matter. So I was at a disadvantage if I played sensibly.

As you can see, I won anyway, despite not playing sensibly. This is because everyone else was also playing for the first time. Yellow’s biggest screwage was with the Monkey card, which would have totally screwed me if more of my opponents had decided to play them all in the last round of the phase, but only two of them did. There was nothing in our game that could have stopped them, although certain cards possibly could have if they had come out the right way for me.

As I said, the game isn’t bad because it’s medium weight, and some people will like the luck of flipping up the cards and then winning by luck or losing by luck (which is what happened to Estzer). I think that the game might more interesting played using El Grande type bidding mechanics, where each player plays cards in turn openly, and you can’t play the same card someone else played. Some of the powers might have to be altered a bit and rebalanced for this to work.

Year of the Dragon

David 120, Aaron 112, Haim 102, Nadine 92

First plays for Haim and Aaron. Around turn 9 I saw David had more than 80 points while everyone else was down at around 40 or so.

Nadine writes: David had two double dragons, I had a single one, the others had more than one double each. I had the fewest people at the end, four, tied with David. I made several mistakes, one extremely stupid because it was totally avoidable. We thought David was more ahead than it turned out. I’m taking credit for how well Aaron and Haim did on their first play, they liked the game a lot.

Trains and Stations

Francis 50, Gili 33, Eszter 31, Binyamin 27

First play for everyone. Binyamin says that I wouldn’t have liked it because it has too many dice.

Tichu

Jon/Aaron 955, David/Nadine 345

David disputes the final score. Aaron is still a newcomer, and on his last turn, while trying to make a Grand Tichu, he played a card and then hesitated before playing his bomb (he was trying to remember the rules) to take it and then exit. While he was hesitating, David played his last card to go out. I told David to take back his last card and let Aaron go out. So there you go.

I also made a Grand Tichu.

 

 

 

 

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