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.
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.
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.