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Hannatoncon

Gili drove me, Eszter and Binyamin to Kibbutz Hannaton on Friday morning. A few people were already there, and many arrived soon after.

New game trends – Plants, lots of plants! Fruit, herbs, gardens and more. Maybe replacing farming.

Friday

Walnut Grove

We started with this, new to Yuval and Binyamin. Eszter won, beating me by one point. She made a mistake at the beginning, she thought she had a yellow farmer and board, but she had a blue one, and only realized it after setting up to produce yellow, and having returned her tiles. I had her switch to a yellow farmer instead of redrawing tiles. Everyone enjoyed playing.

Lewis & Clark

I had played this at bgg.con, and just remembered how slow it was to move up the river, which is the point of the game. It’s actually not so slow, especially by the end of the game when I understood how things worked. I wasn’t as behind as I expected to be, the other two were almost tied at the end. It’s a nice game which requires a lot of thinking and planning, with hand management, worker placement and deck building elements.

Herbaceous

My new favorite filler, though it is pretty light. After I learned it I taught it to several people who also liked it. Beautiful artwork, quick to learn and fun to play. Competitive set collection, you can take sets when you want, but can’t add to them later, so you want to maximize before other players take things.

Splendor

I had heard a lot about this award-winning game, mostly complaints that it was too light. I was pleasantly surprised, it’s a very nice game, one of the best for its length, which makes sense considering how popular it is. Easy to learn, and quick. I learned in a two-player game, we stopped for dinner, but she was close to winning, and I wasn’t. I played again later, a 4-player game with experienced players. I won on my turn, but the others all had an extra turn, and another player tied with me. The tie-breaker is number of cards you played – but we were tied again. I had set myself up to get two nobles in the hope that one would work out, I managed to get both, frustrating Zoya who was trying for the same ones.

Dr. Eureka

A brain and dexterity speed game. I wasn’t good at it, but it’s fun. Binyamin really liked it, and did well. People played it a lot.

Isle of Skye

I like it better now that I understand it. (And I’ll be able to see how it resembles the actual scenery this summer.) I was in last place the whole game, which gave me a lot of extra money, which I used to buy my own tiles. I hadn’t realized scoring and placement aspects and left a hole that no tiles matched. On the last round, two tiles for sale fit, and I was first to buy. One of them even closed off two scoring tiles; I ended up coming in second.

Mutant Meeples

A nice and original game. I couldn’t think fast enough, but it was after midnight. Binyamin liked it.

Walking around, I pointed out a few move options for a new Five Tribes player after she tried to land on an empty tile, but then saw that she understood the game and could do OK on her own. That made me realize how much I wanted to play the game.

Saturday

Five Tribes

So I got players to agree to Five Tribes starting off in the morning. One player was new, he did well with a combination of two assassin djinns – use the assassinated piece, and assassinate two. He got two tiles twice with it, but then the reds ran out. Maria had a djinn that let her place on tiles with meeples. Dima got 25 points one turn, and blocked me on a card I needed. I was doing cards but then stalled when the ones I needed weren’t available, and I didn’t  have much else, no djinns. Then the seventh and eighth cards I needed came out and I got them, and then at the end the last one came out. But there weren’t many moves left at that point, and I couldn’t land on a buy two tile. The new player took two cards, which let me get what I needed with a buy one tile. The whole game I thought I was behind, but was thinking how much I liked playing anyway. In the end I somehow won by around 30 points. I was second in yellows from a late move which helped, and no one else did a lot of cards.

Year of the Dragon

All new players, who had a hard time with the unforgiving nature of the game. We warned Maria about rice and disease, but she wanted fireworks, and did Yuval. They had around 7 each time, with a disagreement because we ran out of firework pieces. I said you can’t run out, so we used extra people to represent two tiles for Yuval. Maria hadn’t realized that we were doing that, she thought she would be ahead until his move. So we did let her redo her move to take fireworks, for 8 vs his 7. I’ve never been in a game with so many. She ended up losing all her people and palaces, ending with one palace level, but she did a good job compensating with dragons, and didn’t do too badly. People also built a lot, somewhat related to rice events being late. I won by a bit, even though I made mistakes and was down to four people at the end. The players understood the game but it is really hard, and hard to enjoy losing people. Dima did well, close to the end of the game he asked what happens when you don’t have space in your palaces for a person you take, I said that’ what everyone’s been doing the whole game, replacing people.

Fabled Fruit

They wanted a light game after that, so someone explained Fabeled Fruit, by Friedemann Friese. It’s a nice game and fun to play, good for a light game but a bit much to set up as a filler. Kids would enjoy it. We played two games then stopped, even though there is a nice mechanic of new cards and placement options coming in all the time. Dima won both games.

Broom Service

We spent a long time learning this, including starting the first round over because I misunderstood movement options, or they misunderstood my question about it. We stopped after two rounds. The main mechanic is trying to guess / deduce if other players have the same cards as you. Sometimes you know, like if they’re out of cards, and sometimes you’re guessing. The mechanic is fine, but not interesting enough to carry a whole game for another five rounds.

Tobago

I haven’t played this in ages. Someone else came over to explain it which took a while, but after that it went well, all new players except me. I lost three treasure cards because of the skull, I still came in third out of four. They agreed that our house rule makes sense, no skulls.

Eszter’s best new game – Insider. I saw people playing it on Friday, and on Saturday when I came in a group was engaged in a serious discussion that sounded normal, until I realized they were playing this, social deduction.

Gili’s best new game – Rococo and Grand Austria Hotel.

Binyamin’s best new game – Grand Austria Hotel, Insider, Rococo, Impotek, Isla Dorado, Istanbul, Eureka, Isla Dorado.

I’m not used to people dropping in and out to the extent they did on Shabbat, and almost everyone left before Shabbat was out. After playing the Kinneret miklat, we all appreciated a nice room with windows. It started raining Shabbat afternoon so we closed the windows by the games, but ended up moving them away. Then the electricity went out, but it came back on not long after. Most of the participants were at the previous two cons, so it’s great to see and play with the same friendly group.

The Jerusalem bridge ready for President Trump.

Kramim Con

Gili drove me, Eszter and her son Binyamin to the kibbutz Friday morning. We were able to get our rooms, and other people showed up to start playing. Gili did a great job organizing the con, she has relatives on the kibbutz, located near Beer Sheva, easier to get to than the Kinneret.

Mombasa

Gili and I joined Roi and someone else to play this. I had played with Roi and Eszter at Kinneretcon, first play for Gili and the other player, Roi is experienced and won again by around 80 points. I came in second again, but Gili was close. I did a bit better than last time, but still missed a lot. You need to make all the right moves, and many of them are competitive. I made a lot of travel moves at the end to help red, where I was ahead, but it didn’t net that much. Roi made it to the end or close to the end of two tracks. I didn’t do bookkeeping at all, and sold several cards for money without buying enough, so second to last round I only played three cards instead of the four I finally managed to qualify for on the jewel track. We all liked the game.

R-Eco

I played with Eszter and Binyamin right before Shabbat. Eszter liked the game but had never played, which amazed me, and Gili when she heard.

I also played with another group, including the guy who asked me to bring the game because he wanted to try it. They all liked it as a good strategic filler.

Dominion

We picked a set from the list in the original game, but then modified it, replacing cards we didn’t like. We all went through tons of cards, with Market and Village. Three players; I did well but lost by one point, 37 to 36.

Sushi Go

Eszter and I played a series of light games with others. I had heard of Sushi Go and how popular it is, and wanted to try it. This was the Sushi Go Party! expansion, which includes the base game, very nice art and components. It took us a while to get the correct cards. It’s a light drafting game with simple scoring. Seems too light as a game.

Kingdomino

Eszter also played. The only game of this type, tile placement, that I like. It’s quick with a small area, and very simple but still fun. I even won.

Panic Lab  

Eszter also played. A pretty party game too complicated for me.

Happy Salmon  

Eszter had wanted people to play this, it’s good for a group. It’s fun and fast, you try to get rid of your deck of cards by finding another player with the same card, you need to perform the card action to eliminate both your cards. Actions are fist bumping, high five, switch places and arm pats.

Fruit Mix

A set collection and memory game. Eszter also played, Binyamin won.

Secret Hitler

I didn’t want to play this because of the name and the deception mechanic, but agreed to play because Eszter really wanted to even thought it’s hard to believe she has a game with that name. Roi didn’t want to play either but joined to try it out. Others including Binyamin were also playing. There are two teams, Liberals and Fascists. The Fascists know who they are and who Hitler is, but Hitler doesn’t know who is on his team. If the Hitler player is voted in as Chancellor the Fascists win, which they did, partly because Eszter was one and is experienced at the game.

Puerto Rico

I taught this to a new player, one of the other players had played a few times. Then a fifth player joined us, my LHO, he said he usually plays 3 player, sometimes with 4. I wasn’t sure of some details, like colonist and VP counts for 5, and number of goods which as it turned out we were missing a corn. The rules weren’t in the box, so LHO looked up the information online, not restrained by Shabbat. I was first player, started with Setter corn, got 4 corns pretty early, and the boats seemed OK so I took a harbor first. With no trade goods or quarries, it took me a long time to get a Wharf, which I barely needed. One time I missed production due to 7 on the corn boat, and it had taken a long time to get enough colonists. My LHO had a coffee monopoly, I had coffee but didn’t build the building. He traded and built a lot, he ended the game with three large buildings, one unmanned. He said I’d win, I of course said he would, and I was right. He had 7 shipping points, I had 29, but no buildings or bonuses. He had 40, I had 37.

Saturday

Takenoto

We wanted a short light game, I played this last time, very cute. Eszter also played. I triggered the end game which lets the other players have one more turn. I had 28 points, I told Zoya that if she got 5 points she’d beat me. She managed to play a 5 point card, so we thought she won. But then someone pointed out that the end game card I received gave me an additional 2 points, so I won.

I played again later with Gili, we modified the rules a bit, but the kids are game players and liked it with the ganan and hapanda.

Voyages of Marco Polo

I played this at bgg.con, and taught it to people including Roi at Kinneretcon, but got a travel rule wrong because I never travel in the game. Gili and I have been playing online with David, and Gili wanted to play on the actual board to understand the game better, she said it helped. Yovel also played, his first time. I usually just do contracts, which doesn’t work against good players who travel and also do contracts. I had the character who doesn’t need to pay to place on top of previous players, Gili picked first and took the one who starts in Beijing, Yuval could jump from one oasis to another, and Roi had two travelers. I went third so had more money to compensate, and didn’t have to pay for placement. I had money, so I started by traveling instead of doing contracts. The second travel location bonus was an additional travel step which facilitated travel. So I got to the small city which had the three points per round bonus first round. I traveled a bit more and got good bonuses and placement options, including the dice for gold, which Yovel also had, but only used last round. I also did contracts, which were easier for me because of my character. Somehow I got far ahead, and ended up winning. For the first time I got points from my travel bonus cards, I had 3 cities, the other was close but too hard to get to. I had around 80 points, Gili and Roi around 50. Roi said he liked the game less this time, Gili said it helped her a lot with how it works. We all agreed that my character was much stronger than the others in the game, and possibly all of them.

Carto

I was waiting for this to be set up. During set up I started Gili and her niece and nephew on Takenodo, but didn’t finish explaining it because the Carto explanation started. As soon as I understood the main mechanic which sounded abstract and spatial, I left to play Takenoto with Gili and the kids.

Hawaii

Roi wanted a new game, so I taught this to him, Zoya and Yovel. After one round Shabbat was out, and even though people had planned on staying and playing afterwards, everyone ended up leaving. I haven’t played Hawaii in long time, Gili likes it borrowed it. We play sometimes on Yucata.

Eszter played real Ra, Isle of Skye and Blood Rage which she likes and won, and Terraforming Mars. She was ahead the whole game, and had a lot of money to buy cards, but no cards that would help her turned up. Someone else said there’s no control in the early rounds.

Binyamin played Isle of Skye, Cash ‘n’ Guns, Carto, Opera, Nadlan B’Katan (For Sale), Brick Party.

Gili played Ticket to Ride and Settlers with her relatives, Cash ‘n’ Guns, Nadlan B’Katan (For Sale).

The game Above and Below looks interesting, about growing plants, but you can also build buildings underground. In Brick Party pairs compete to build with actual Legos based on an image on a card. One partner builds without seeing the picture, the other gives the instructions. The image is just the outside shape without showing the bricks, I don’t think I could build from that, much less direct someone else.

We were helping a group playing Five Tribes, I discovered they had played completely wrong, they were only using tile actions if they put a camel on it. The guy who had told them didn’t want to believe me, he said that’s how he’s always played.

KinneretCon Fall 2016

Nadine and I, and others from Jerusalem, went to KinneretCon for around 30 hours of gaming on the Sea of Galilee. This was their second event, and they are planning more. Both times the event was held at a kosher hostel. Basic rooms hold 2 to 4 people and edible (if not glamorous) full board is provided. It sits 100 meters off the lake shore, which is nice; I didn’t see too much of the lake, but my kids did some swimming.

Around 30 to 35 people were around, about half of them religious.

Games played by either me or Nadine:

Amerigo

I taught this to three others, and we had a good time. Unlike the last time I taught this, where the other players loved the cube tower, this time the other players were a little unsatisfied with the cube tower and would probably prefer one of the “bag drawing” variants. I lost by a few points, if I recall correctly.

Antike

I taught this to four others, and, as usual, stressed that they should concentrate on points and not get lost in the mechanics. And, as usual, I won (by one point, instead of my usual two points). Also as usual, we played to one point less than the recommended value. I think everyone liked it.

Next time I play I might use the new tech chart from Antike II.

Castles of Burgundy

Nadine writes: I taught this to three other players who picked it to play. They did well, I didn’t win. I did help them, though I mostly gave advice on request or when they didn’t understand the implications. I forgot to tell them that a six could become a one, until I used it late in the game. Two players, including the one who won, had 5-tile regions with all the same animal. They all really liked the game.

Goldwest

A multi-player solitaire straightforward game of taking tiles and scoring points. The tiles you can take – or other actions you can perform – relay on how you distribute cubes onto your action track, but that’s somehow less interesting than it should be. There is nothing to do until your turn again, and you can’t really plan between turns.

But, as a filler (if you play quickly), it’s okay as a pastime and there are often a few options to consider each turn.

Imperial Settlers

Another so-so game, which I didn’t like mostly because it had a take-that mechanic but also a runaway winner problem. One would think that the person doing “take-that” would at least target the leader, but circumstances don’t always favor this, which just makes it more frustrating. There are cards you can play that simply counteract anything that one of your opponents does every round, making it nearly impossible for them to progress. Frustrating.

Otherwise, the game would be okay, with lots of cards and resources and a deceptively large number of things to do during each of the five rounds. I was ahead in points until the last round, but I knew I was losing by a large margin to my LHO already in round 2, and there was not much I could do about it.

Isle of Skye

First play for me. This is a game played over five rounds, where you get to add 0-3 Carcassonne-like tiles to your tableau each round. Each player gets three tiles, assigning money to two of them and discarding the other. Each player can then buy one of the other tiles from someone else, giving him or her the money and letting them keep their money. After all players have bought one tile or passed, you pay any money on any of your remaining tiles and place these tiles and the one you bought (if any) into your board. Then you score based on certain scoring tiles, each of which apply to three rounds of the game. Some tiles also provide income, but everyone gets at least 5 coins each round.

That’s it. It plays okay, and Eszter and her son liked it a lot. I liked it, but it lacked some kind of spark for me. The best part of the game was that one of the scoring tiles gave you points for money left in hand at the end of the round, which provided a good decision for whether to try to get money from others or try to place more tiles. But this scoring tile is only used if it is drawn for the game; I think the game will be even less interesting without it.

Mombasa

Nadine write: A large, long complicated game. But interesting and good. Two extra players were learning it with us, so one of them ended up helping Eszter and one helped me. We each understood different rules, so it took both of us to figure out moves. We ended up doing really well, partly inadvertently, we came in second, only losing to Roi who taught it and did really well. It has varied mechanics – company shares, worker placement, area control, hand management. Also an award winner, 2016 International Gamers Award, and Spiel de Jahres Recommended.

Nefarious

I taught this to four others. We played with the twists: a) you get have +five points if you have five cards at the end of your turn; b) if you build an invention worth more points than any previous invention, you get +2 coins. Both positive twists, which are good.

I walked to victory here, stumbling only for two rounds when one of my opponents made everyone else discard two cards.

Prime Time

A clunky-looking game about TV scheduling which is actually better than it looks. I had to leave after the first half of the game, and I suffered during some of that, but only because I made colossally bad plays and my RHO made even worse plays.

But it actually worked well and looked intriguing after I got the hang of it, and I would like to try it again.

Red 7

Nadine writes: A fun light game, good for 1:30 am. It took us two games to catch on to how to plan your turn. Binyamin S won the first game after teaching it, I won the second game. A 2014 Golden Geek award winner.

Slap Deck

I taught and played this a few times, but the response was muted (which is unusual).

Space Cadets: Dice Duel

Nadine write: Each team frenetically rolls dice, over and over, simultaneously, in a race to get missiles, offense, defense, movement and shields. Our team wasn’t as good at understanding and assessing when we’d win an attack, so we lost a lot of missiles. It also took us a while to get all the rules. Towards the end, our opponents attacked us quickly right after their previous attack; they were surprised that we had gotten a shield up so fast. So was our team, good work by our shield player. We were far behind and conceded the last point.

Takenoko

Nadine writes: Another award winner, especially in France where it was published, 2012. Great art, colors and components, extremely well done. Nice theme which is well integrated with the gameplay. A light game which plays quickly and is easy to learn, fun to play despite the luck factor. The person before me ended the game when he placed his seventh point card, he had 28 points. The other players then all get a last turn. I had 24 points, and several cards which would give me more than 4 points. But bad luck meant that I couldn’t play any of them. I didn’t roll rainfall or tokens, couldn’t move the gardener, and picked another card which didn’t work. I ended up tied with Zoya for second place. The player who won played well, but drew at least two point cards which he could play immediately because the conditions were filled.

Tichu

Tal and I played against Nadine and Yoval. Tal played well; I bid and lost a Tichu and a Grand Tichu, and I wasn’t happy about either of them (the Grand Tichu loss was not really my fault; I played poorly on the Tichu). After that Tichu wasn’t called by anybody very often, and we eventually lost after many, many hand by 1005 to 895.

Voyages of Marco Polo

Nadine writes: Roi and David wanted to play this, so I taught it to them. It’s a good game, I’m just not good at it. I made a mistake with the rules which did make a difference, but Roi would have won anyway. And I would have lost anyway. We placed trading posts on the way, not just on our last stop. We played the beginner version with the recommended characters, but selected goal cards.

Walk the Plank

Nadine writes: You’re pirates being chased by sharks, and you detach arms and legs from your large plastic person when the shark catches you, after losing your 4 limbs you’re out of the game. The main mechanic is selecting a number that no other player selects, otherwise you can’t move. I got eaten, though late in the game, in two games.

KinneretCon

Several JSGC members attended a board game convention at Kare Deshe over shabbat. We played games from Friday afternoon until a bit after motzai shabbat. In addition to breaks for food and sleep (not much for some people), the religious ones took additional breaks for prayer, etc. Nadine came up with the name KinneretCon.

Attendees: Jon, Nadine, Gili, Eszter, and other occasional attendees including Cliff, Rafi and Eszter’s son Binyamin. The event was organized by Roee of Givatayim, and about 30 other faces, familiar or otherwise, were in attendance.

People brought games into the miklat, resulting in a pile of about 150 games to play. Once in a while I had to stand outside and take a look at the very pretty and not-quite-as-severely-evaporated-as-last-time Sea of Galilee to remind myself that I was not, in fact, a dungeon dweller.

Jon’s report

Mr. Jack Pocket – First play for me, having played (out) Mr. Jack. This is a smaller, cleaner, shorter version of the game that gives nearly the same experience, so it is preferred. It’s a small tactical puzzle that plays quickly. I won as the criminal.

Nefarious – Gili and I played this with someone else, who played it for the first time.  Our twists were “lose all of your money after inventing” and “gain $2 each turn”, which pretty much canceled each other out. I won with five 4-point cards.

Tigris and Euphrates – I taught this to two people. Zoya was one, but she had played it once several years ago and not liked it. I thought perhaps because it hadn’t been explained well.

Turns out I was right. Both of them were very happy with my rules explanation, and Zoya particularly seemed to enjoy it, despite that fact that I kind of killed them. I had 11, Zoya had 7, and the other guy had 4. It was a very bloody game at the beginning. Then, when I built a monument, they let me keep it too long, despite my urging them to attack me. I ended with game by taking the last treasure, giving me my fifth.

Tichu – Nadine and I played against Roee and Zoya Nuar, the organizers. It was the first time we had serious opponents outside of our group. I supposed at first that Nadine is shy in calling Tichu, but she called more often than I did, even a grand tichu. In contrast, I have a lot of experience but barely ever called tichu, owing to hands that were always just a little shy. The one time I called it, our opponents had two bombs.

Nadine made a few play errors that cost us some big point swings. I played very well, if I say so myself, several times exiting with the dog as my last card.

We played upwards of 15 hands, and Nadine and I were negative for much of that time. Eventually it was something like 800 to our -100, which we closed to 800 to 500, but then finally lost in the end.

Codenames – Others played this a few times. I practiced playing this one on one with Cliff, giving myself four turns and only two errors allowed. Turns out to be much harder when your opponents aren’t eliminating their own cards.

Take it to the Limit – This was on my wish list and Gilad from Reut was selling a copy. I had actually only played Take it Easy, which is its shorter baby version (10 minute game). This is a larger game that takes about 20-30 minutes, and plays up to 6 easily. Although people say it is similar to bingo – because one player draws a tile and everyone has to place that tile on their board – it’s not; it’s more like Crossword Squares, which is a pen and pencil word game where people call out letters and try to make words. In this game, you try to make high scoring lines of numbers.

Nadine was apprehensive, but in the end she was okay with it. I picked it up as a filler game for our group.

Carcassonne Big Box 5 – First play for me, I played with Yovel Zim. I had played Carcassonne before, but never with any of these expansions, and certainly not with many multiple expansions like this. Some of the expansions were ok, such as the traders and builders, and some were irrelevant, such as the hills and sheep. The ones that added luck were a mix. The wheel of fortune was fine, since it gave you additional options to play for. But it was unnecessary to have it sometimes skip a section.

I pretty much creamed my opponent, who kept not leaving himself a meeple to score with on each turn. I also played many more farmers than he did and scored bigger cities. Final score was something like 335 to 245ish.

Bruges – A classic Stefan Feld Eurostyle game I played with Cliff and Nadine (first play for me and Cliff). I tend to like games that have you acquire buildings with special abilities, like this one. I was initially concerned that the disaster events were too frequent and too strong – which is a Stefan Feld signature – but it turned out that they could be dealt with without too much harm. Still, I don’t really like attack cards (they added to the frequency of the disasters for the other players) and I would probably eliminate or mitigate them somehow.

I won this with something like 54 point while Cliff and Nadine were tied at 41 (Cliff won the tie).

Candle Quest – I taught a gamer and his non-gamer, apprehensive wife how to play, and they played the basic game with Nadine. She liked it enough by the end to request to play it again, and I sat in for Nadine on the second game. I lost.

Tokaido – This is a beautiful game with an original and lovely theme, etc. What matters is the game play, which has been – fairly – compared to Candyland. On your turn you go to the next available space that makes any sense for you (i.e. if you have money you go to the next space, otherwise you go to the next space you can afford), draw a card and do what it says. The only clear decision is whether to gamble spending money now for a few points against the possibility that you won’t have enough for a few more points next round. That’s it.

Defenders of this game say that the other decision – whether to skip forward more a few spaces to get something special (in exchange for giving your opponent extra turns) – is where the heart of the game lies, but from what I have seen I call bull. In the comparable game – Glen More – that decision makes sense, because you are getting something very highly valued in exchange for the turns you give up; sometimes 18 or more points, and each additional turn you gave up is also -3 points for the person who takes it. In this game, the most you will get by jumping forward a few spaces is 3 extra points, and every turn nets you 2-5 points, so it is never worthwhile to lose turns.

I would be happy to be proven otherwise, but until then this remains a thing of beauty that  I hope to never play again. Everyone else playing with me – Cliff, Nadine, and someone else – felt the same way. At one point Nadine went to the bathroom and we played her turns for her. The game played us, rather than the other way around. I think the game won for me.

Roll for the Galaxy – Although I don’t like dice, I sometimes like dice placement games, like Alien Frontiers and Troyes. I thought this might be the same, maybe slightly better than Race for the Galaxy, which I think it okay but not great (in particular, I don’t like games where players can act to end the game early when they are winning). Fiddly dice rolling doesn’t add much to the card game, although the ability to choose what kind of cards you draw does. So it’s a mix of things that are better than and worse than the original game. We had to stop this mid-game since shabbat was out and the owners had to go.

Lo Ra – Finally, we played this with the same couple with whom we played Candle Quest. Again, she was apprehensive, and again she warmed to it by the end of the game. The husband had played Ra, so he understood what was going on. Nadine toasted all of us by an embarrassing amount.

Nadine’s report

Someone said the event needs a name, and we came up with KinneretCon. The best game event I’ve been to, very fun and friendly in a great setting.

Roll for the Galaxy – I played twice, once Friday afternoon before Shabbat, once at the end of Shabbat where we stopped after a few rounds. It’s interesting but fiddly, I’m glad I got to try it. Tons of pretty dice.

TIME Stories –  I’ve wanted to try this since I saw at bgg.con, where it was popular. Cliff and Rafi also really liked it. I played with Gili, Eszter and Roee; Rafi got us started and answered questions. It’s a co-op game with a creative mystery story and nice art. I don’t play games for literature-like wording; the others, not native English-speakers, weren’t into the wording either. The mechanics of discovery, deduction, combat tests and puzzles are fine, but we didn’t feel like doing them for three hours, so we stopped near the end of the first run, after spending twenty minutes on the mental maze. Which Rafi later said wasn’t necessary if we had followed a different path. It was a good way to experience the game and see how it works; it’s more of activity than a game.

Five Tribes – I played with Eszter and two players new to the game, they were very good at analyzing and making beneficial moves. They were strong on the board, one had a Djinn for placing camels on empty tiles, and one could place palaces, and keep assassinated meeples. I only had 4 camels on the board, on low point tiles, and no Djinns or white meeples. I did money once. I collected cards, which I usually don’t do because they cost money, but only Eszter was collecting any at all, and there was a good selection available. I ended up with a set of seven and a set of five, I finished the second set at the end, I hadn’t tried getting two large sets in other plays. I also had six yellow meeples for the most; the assassin guy killed one of Eszter’s instead of mine because he was in competition with her for second place, whereas I would have the most either way. I also had bid pretty low, and ended up winning. We all enjoyed the game, I think the open information makes it more interesting because you end up helping people plan moves once they say what they want to do. The new version with Fakirs instead of Slaves.

Tichu – I partnered with Jon against Roee and his wife Zoya. They’re super Tichu fiends. I don’t call many Tichus, but called Grand Tichu early on. I said I don’t know if I could even make a regular Tichu against these guys, they complained about my table talk because they thought I was referring to my current hand, but got it after I explained what I meant. I’m not sure if I could have made it, but I definitely played wrong, which put us in the negative. Our opponents seemed to always have bombs at the right time to stop us from both going out first, or making Tichus. At one critical point, I was trying to go out, and had no idea that Zoya and Jon both had only one card, just because I wasn’t paying attention, a very stupid mistake. I played wrong, letting Zoya go out before me or Jon. Jon couldn’t believe it, and complained, which was totally justified since it basically cost us a lot of points and the whole game, frustrating when I had the right cards. Zoya and Roee commented on his complaining, but he wasn’t seriously mad, just pretty annoyed. And even after I played I hadn’t noticed what happened. Other than losing, it was a very long and fun game, interesting to play against serious players. Now I need to get better at several aspects of it.

Bruges – I had played this twice at bgg.con two years ago, and liked it compared to other games, but not enough to get the game. It’s not too long, and has negative effects, but they can be mitigated. My big move was making the others lose three points, but I lost a house and person card from Cliff’s attacks. I finished my canal before Cliff, a one-point advantage. Jon won, I tied with Cliff in points, he won the tie with one extra coin. I took cards from only one stack to make the game finish sooner, it may have prevented one round. Getting good person cards with synergy seems to be the best strategy, but which cards you get is partly luck.

Take it to the Limit – The game is spatial, but not complicated, so it’s a good break from Eurogames. I was trying to only make a few rows, but should have tried for one fewer, because I ended up with two in the same color with each missing one or two tiles. Next time I’ll pay more attention to the small board, and should get a better result. There’s strategy, but plays quickly.

Tokaido – I had seen a demo of this at bgg.con; it’s known for beautiful art. Disappointing as a game; I left the room for a few minutes, and told Cliff they could take care of my Inn move. When I got back, they had done my next move too, because it was so obvious what I would choose. Which is the case for the whole game, only very minor decisions which have little effect. Our scores were close because the game is well-balanced. I would have had money for food at the first Inn if I had only bought two cards instead of three on my first move, I don’t know how much the point difference was. Jon compared it to Candyland, later I read a review that said that it’s been called Candyland for adults, and the reviewer went into the differences between the two games. A game that needs to be defended against comparisons to Candyland has major issues.

Candle Quest – Jon taught the game but didn’t play. The players did well at understanding and playing. I didn’t draw any bad candle cards, the others drew several, including the person who won. People bought cards several times from discard piles. I hadn’t played in a long time.

Lo Ra – Jon and I taught this to two new players. They wanted to be taught in Hebrew, but after Jon started explaining, one player said “just like Ra.” So Jon let him explain to his wife. They caught on well, and were interested in the game. I won because I managed to win a few good auctions at the right time. Only one person was missing a candle for the menorahs in one round.

bgg.con 2015 Orange pizzas

20151118_092059Tuesday

I left at night instead of in the morning as in the past few years, with a VIP send off from my kids. We were meeting for dinner at the airport before I left; coming from Tel Aviv, Ginat and Yona got there earlier, so they waited in line for me, and Eli carried my luggage in. I watched five movies: 500 Days of Summer, San Andreas, Wild, Inside Out, and Minions. At Customs in Newark the agent asked me where I lived and why I moved there, then what I was doing in the U.S. I said family and board game convention, he asked what my favorite game was, I said Puerto Rico, he said “that’s a game?” I slept on the way to Dallas, got my hotel room upon arrival, checked email and went to sleep. I had arranged to meet some FBRSP people for dinner and thought we could play afterwards, but they didn’t even like the same types of games as each other.

20151118_092110There is an anticipatory energy at the hotel during the preparations Tuesday night, I hadn’t arrived early since 2011. A lot of people had brought games, I saw someone I had played Witches with sitting with a pile of games, I asked him if he wanted to play, he said OK, I asked if he wanted more players, he said OK, so I found someone.

20151118_064317Scoville

We played Scoville, where you plant and harvest peppers, then convert them into victory points through recipes or cards. Nice components and mechanics. You bid for turn order and first choice of free peppers to receive, you go first in either planting or harvesting, and last in the other. With three players, being in the middle worked very well, so I never bid. First player also has first choice for fulfillment, but the ones I wanted weren’t competitive. I decided to go for intermediary contracts more frequently rather than saving up for the big ones that someone else could grab, which worked really well because no one managed any big contracts by the end. The game owner also got lots of contracts, I thought he would get a big one. We tied, and I won on the tie with one extra leftover pepper. It’s mostly tactical, though you have to plan ahead for fulfillment, a nice game. Looks like it would be very chaotic with six, allowing for less planning.

20151118_085951Wednesday

When I looked out my window the weather was nice – sunny and clear, and I thought it’s too bad I’m going to be inside for three days. I got in line before 9, but the line was already out the door. So I was outside, but not in the sun, it was a bit cold but not bad, everyone remembered how freezing it was last year.

20151118_090847A girl in line with me was from Las Vegas, her boyfriend joined a friend further up in line. I admired her nails and rings, nails are stick-on. We talked with some others in line, and I went down to take pictures of the free games so we could plan which to take. We started playing Lords of Waterdeep on someone’s phone once he figured out how to get multi-player to work, but didn’t finish the game. The Geek entertaining the line offered geekgold for a meeple, not on your phone, a flashlight, not on your phone, and who came from the furthest away. My line friends said you have that one, and I did, but with close competition from Denmark, who probably didn’t expect to lose out. By the time registration started at 10 and we got to the table showing the prize games, a few, such as Wits & Wagers, were gone. I registered before 11, and went straight to Hot Games, I had brought a bag for the free games so I wouldn’t need to go up to my room.

The Gallerist

I had heard of and voted for a few games for Hot Games that sounded good, The Gallerist was one of them. The main Hot Games I wanted to try were Shakespeare, 504, M.U.L.E. and Food Chain Magnate. 20151118_134642There was an opening at The Gallerist with players who needed to leave at 1:45, which was good for me because I had a PR game scheduled for 2. Most people who played liked it, I didn’t, it seemed dry and not exciting or interesting. You get one action per turn, plus actions when people displace your one worker. So there can be 7 actions before it’s your turn again. You invest in artists, buy paintings, try to raise the fame of your artist/s, and try to get majorities on track areas. You need to have the right type of meeples in your gallery or atrium in relation to different actions. Beautiful board, color palette, and components, but not enough. We didn’t finish the game. 57, 52, me 41, 24.

20151118_142605Abe had been in touch, he was coming at 11, we both thought the line would be done but it wasn’t, people were saying this is the first year that happened. There’s no wifi reception downstairs so it’s hard to find people, but he found me. He wanted to walk around the vendor areas, and had to be available for phone job interviews so we didn’t play together til Saturday night.

Puerto Rico

I arranged this through the Play the Classics Geeklist. It seemed a reasonable time to be available, I figured I’d eat lunch in my room beforehand. As it was, I barely had time to run up to my room to get some food to eat while playing. True to promise, David D had the fancy anniversary edition, with heavy metal coins, that I had never played with, in 2011 it hadn’t been available in the library when we looked. We were going to be four, but the fourth was tied up, so we switched to playing three. 20151118_152830David D taught the game, completely mixing strategy and rules from the start, I could see why Jon complains about that type of teaching. He also had some rules wrong which I corrected, such as you don’t have to ship your higher value goods such as coffee before corn, you just have to use the largest boat you can fill. We gave advice to the new player. David had three large buildings, I could have bought a second one but not mayor it. I had harbor and factory, David was sitting behind the new player and had a factory and coffee monopoly, tons of money. 51, me 42, 38.

Tales and Games: The Hare and the Tortoise

David suggested we play this, and I was happy to play a light game. It’s a cute and quick racing game where each animal has different movement, you have some control but not much. I wanted to bet on the wolf but didn’t get a wolf card so I couldn’t. 7 5 3 2, I think I came in second.

20151118_174642Food Chain Magnate

A very nice and popular game, with a lot of relevant decisions and interesting options, by the designer of Indonesia and Roads and Boats, known for unforgiving games. You hire, train and deploy workers to produce, price and market food from your restaurant/s. We decided that we didn’t need to play the beginner game, quite a mistake. Game length is based on player votes on how much to restock the bank in the second phase, we played the shortest version. Two players marketed earlier than I and another played did, because they realized that no marketing means no sales or income. It’s challenging to hire and train the right employees at the right time, I did almost everything wrong. There are game Milestones that reward the players who are ahead, I did get the First Pizza Sold bonus which added $5 to my income from each pizza. The player who won got a few bonuses, including not having to pay workers for most of the game, which led to him being the first to have $100 with a bonus of doubling his income every round. He also placed houses with gardens early on, we even forgot to add the extra income he should have gotten from the gardens.

20151118_194844I was selling a lot of pizzas for a while, but then another player got a pricing manager, and then another one, which let him reduce his prices so that he got all the sales generated by our marketing campaigns. The initial employees are free, but trained ones are expensive, especially when you have no income because someone stole all your pizza sales. I switched to red drinks, but was only able to produce one with the employee I had. There are also road/route factors to consider. My ‘catch on to the game as you go’ strategy did not work at all here. Overall an excellent and fun game, though I’m still skeptical about the balance with the Milestones. 569, 62, 60, me 44. Not a typo on the score! The winning player is a professor of economics at Claremont McKenna.

20151118_221928Flick ’em Up

They were looking for players, I said I’m not so ‘dexterity,’ but they said that’s fine and encouraged me to join. I did manage to kill one cowboy. We played the simplest scenario, the others sound more interesting but of course harder. You can move your cowboy by flicking a marker, or shoot at another cowboy with a cube. A fun action game. My team lost, but we were black so maybe had to.

Five Tribes

I saw people reading the rulebook. They had played once a long time ago. I refreshed them on a few things. The first time I did a loop and assassinate was the last, after that they got it, even though I had mentioned the option, and took all the opportunities. Only one player collected cards. I collected yellow and was ahead, and got the Djinn 3 points for yellow. Me 164, 142, 132, 129

bgg.con 2015 Too many games in one

Thursday

20151119_111345504

A Friedemann Friese game I had heard about. There were two set up in Hot Games, I didn’t realize they were different, I was at the Explore one, not the Route Delivery one which was good. We got a teacher, after he explained most of it a German guy came buy and answered questions, he was the developer. He said design by FF took 4 years, then the developer spent eight months on the rulebook. The point is that there are 504 different games that can be played, the rulebook is cut into sections so that parts of the pages mix and match.

20151119_111355We played an introductory scenario, where you place workers to claim hexes, and expend workers to produce goods. There were points for a set of 5 different goods, and for sets of 3 of the same good. The other players started on the other side of the board, so I expanded easily – I had extra money because I started last – then added in production, and won. Then we found out that we played it all wrong, you can’t start workers from anywhere you want or multiple locations, which I had wondered about, and you’re limited in number of workers. So I don’t think I would have won. No one thought that we would have benefitted by spending more time playing a longer game correctly. I agree with the other players, no one needs 500 mediocre games with the same components, even if it’s cleverly done. Me 26, 25, 20, 15

Shakespeare

20151119_144114I walked around the vendor areas, checking back several times to get into a game of this, and stayed to watch the game finish. One player who didn’t do as well said he should have placed gold pieces. I didn’t understand all the details or how they interrelated when we started, and the game is too short to make up for that. I selected a gold character first round, which was a mistake, one of many. The game is OK, but not that interesting.

New mechanics are that you can only reuse one action that you used in the previous turn, and you bid for turn order with actions, least actions goes first, so there is good interplay with planning those together. There are restrictions and positive and negative effects affecting all players for some actions. I don’t like negative effects though you have some control, and the game should be better when you know the cards, but I didn’t like it that much, neither did the other players. The theme is not integrated, nothing related to specific plays or actors, no quotations. It doesn’t need to be a trivia game, but could have been done much better, and I didn’t find the art attractive. 18, 16, 12, me 12

20151119_154346Times Square

I ran into Abe by a door in the main room, playing Times Square, which he said was a good light filler.

The King’s Abbey

A successful Kickstarter being demoed by the designer / publisher. I asked about the theme and component names, seems like he skimmed and selected historical terms somewhat randomly. I didn’t take crusade cards and wasn’t into all the crosses, but played anyway. 20151119_155933A conglomeration of mechanics from other games, he unabashedly kept saying, ‘like in Agricola,’ ‘like in Stone Age,’ etc. I’m not sure what made people support the game, probably the theme. He didn’t play, he helped us by suggesting which buildings to take, which moves to make. We played a short intro game, I can see that there would be more tension in a real game, we didn’t have a hard time building enough Defenses in case of Viking attack. It seemed pretty straightforward – get resources, build either buildings that give you privileges or tower buildings that you start with, which give more points, place on crusade cards, and some other side actions. 87, me 76, 68

Virtual Reality

20151119_231357I hadn’t been up to the 11th floor which had playing and event rooms in the executive offices, I had heard it was nice, mostly it was nice and quiet. They had trouble setting up due to internet issues, but I was near the front of the line, and people dropped out due to the wait. I haven’t tried virtual reality, Oculus was demoing. The demos were short due to the delays. I was at the sitting one as opposed to standing, with a computer screen, mouse and VR glasses. I forgot to have a picture taken while I was trying it. It is pretty cool, you’re immersed in an environment and can move around, control objects and interact with other players, you feel like you’re in the actual space.

20151119_213116Signorie

People were running around talking about Heavy Cardboard which I hadn’t heard of. I saw people with a game and asked if I could join and they said fine, they were 3. I had played with some of them before, one was the price reducer in Food Chain Magnate, he hadn’t liked how long the game went with the unbalanced Milestones. They told me to go get a Heavy Cardboard raffle ticket in the larger room, it felt like a very in-crowd of geeks. They hadn’t all played before, I understood the mechanics of the game, but not the implications of actions.

20151119_202254It’s an excellent game, with good tension between immediate actions and longer term investment, and there are different strategic options. The choices are interesting and positive. In addition to not strategizing well, I had bad luck with heralds, I needed certain ones that matched my track to show up. This can be mitigated by being on multiple tracks, which I wasn’t. You’re training sons and sending them off to cities, and marrying off daughters into those cities. In 15th century Italy so it’s not sexist. Cute girl and boy meeples, nice art, boards and components. I think my favorite new game that I played. Dice placement from a common pool for actions, a bonus if you use a low dice total. 202, 178, me 162, 131

We took a break during the game for the Heavy Cardboard auction of sets of games, shirts and other items, I said my number was one away, the other players all said the same thing, because it was a small auction.

bgg.con 2015 My boats don’t capsize

Friday

20151120_001515Time Stories

I didn’t play this, but it’s another very popular game people were talking about. It’s a coop to solve a mystery, once you solve it, which takes several tries, you need to buy another scenario.

 

M.U.L.E.

20151120_104111Good marketing with the title, most boardgamers have played the computer game. I had it on a Commodore 64, I mostly remember the clomping sound of the mule running away, and that it was a good resource games, but not the details. I was waiting at the My Village table, people said they liked it better than Village, but then M.U.L.E. (Multiple Use Labor Element) opened up and I went to play that. The players had all played the computer game, on Ataris, which sounds like a more advanced color version than my monochrome one. We played the intro game, which made things easier so a bit less fun but now I’m happy to play intro versions. The other players said it was true to the computer game.

20151120_104051I was randomly first player, which is terrible, you go last for tile selection, and get a negative effect card just for you, then you need to pick one player to give a positive effect card, their way of balancing the game. At one point early on, the general event card would have hurt me, I was OK with it, but the guy who knew the game felt sorry for me and redrew it. (The guy who knew the game used to work at Electronic Arts when it was small, and had recommended against their NFL games.) I produced Chrystalite early, the others were producing Smithore, and I sold at a high price, so having the most money kept me in first place in turn order. A player asked how I was complaining and winning, very funny. But after that other players overtook me. 227, me 223, 196, 193

Whitewater

20151120_130057I had time before I had to go get my stuff from my room and then meet Abe to leave for Shabbat, this game didn’t look long, but took longer than I expected and I just made it to my room to pick up my luggage before my late checkout expired. A whitewater rafting racing game. Each player has two boats, and another player is their partner for a boat, so each player is partnered with two different players. You secretly assign 1 and 2 points to your boats, you want your higher scoring boat to win, 3 boats score. There are dice that you roll for penalties in eddies, and you can push other boats. It’s very well done and fun to play, apparently much more fun with six players which completely crowds the river. In the advanced game, penalties include going back to where you lost an oar, whereas in our game you only lost actions. You can help your partner instead of taking your own actions, though that kind of screws your other partner. You can really screw up a partner by focusing on only one boat, no one did that. One player needed to leave partway through, which we knew from the beginning, but we got someone walking by to fill in, who did well. I guessed on which partner would play better, not based on much, and was lucky that none of my boats capsized. Me 8, 7, 4, 2

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